I started thinking more about my fears as a child with hearing loss.I’ve since spoken with others who are hard of hearing, and we couldn’t help but laugh over our similar fears. Many of our hearing peers experienced the same fears but for different reasons.
The moment that really sparked this spiral of thought when it comes to fears as a child with hearing loss was my supposed fear of fireworks. My parents rehashed the first time I heard fireworks after being fitted for hearing aids. It wasn’t the actual fireworks; I thought they were pretty! It was the “BOOM” that terrified me. I’d never heard or experienced such a thing before. My parents told me it was quite some time before I got used to the loudness of fireworks.
My personal first recollection of being terrified of something seemingly so innocent was the ever-popular kids’ game of Telephone. I already hated the concept of whispering. It sounds muffled and uncomfortable when someone speaks into my hearing aids from behind. That being said, I froze anytime someone would come in for a hug, praying that my hearing aids wouldn’t ring. Talk about the heart rate going up! Add the sort of competitive element of the game of Telephone, and shivers would disperse all over my body.
For those of you who may not know, the objective of the game is for one person to whisper a phrase into someone’s ear. That person then relays the message to the person next to them and so on. Ultimately, the hope is that at the end, the statement is as close as possible to the original phrase. It can be quite entertaining to be honest, as the ending statement is almost always WAY off. As a hard of hearing individual, though, it’s not so fun because I almost never understood a single word the person next to me said. It was as if I was being targeted as the person where it got messed up. It was like I was starting a whole new phrase mid-way through the game.
Speaking of telephone, the actual phone was incredibly intimidating to me as well. Because I relied so heavily on lip reading, it was a challenge for me to really learn how to listen on the phone and how to get the placement of the phone on the right spot of my hearing aid for maximum clarity and volume. Meanwhile, the person on the other end was wondering what the heck is going on and repeatedly saying “Hello?!” I remember many of my friends, my sister included, loved answering the phone. It was their “I can be an adult” moment. Not for me. I would sit and listen to the phone ringing, fingers crossed that someone, anyone, would pick it up!
I was a pretty social kid, so this was a pretty crushing moment for me. In terms of social events, though, sleepovers and pool/water activities were also not the most comforting situations for me. People would always stay up late at sleepovers chatting and whispering in the dark. Because I couldn’t see, I couldn’t hear, so why bother? I often would roll over and go to sleep. It made me feel like a bit of an outcast. I was always terrified that the other girls were plotting some pranks because I was the first to sleep. I wouldn’t be able to hear them if they came over to put my thumb in hot water or draw something silly on my face. Luckily they never did anything.
Like most kids, I spent my summers in the neighborhood pool. I lived for diving and practicing my handstands in the water. I had to work extra hard at certain water games because I couldn’t hear. If someone came up from behind, or yelled during a game of Sharks and Minnows, I couldn’t hear.
It was a common thing to push people in the pool with their clothes on or when they least expected it. I wanted to laugh because as a child, that was amusing, but wouldn’t for fear that I’d be next on the list. I could NOT be pushed in the water with my ears on. My lifeline would be destroyed. My parents would be mad that they’d have to spend hundreds of dollars on a replacement. Don’t worry, I got really good at learning how to dry my hearing aids out if I did get them wet!
In addition to the pool, I spent many summers traversing around theme parks. I got the biggest thrill from riding roller coasters (I still do!). I remember the first time I went on an upside down ride, I held my hands over my ears for fear that my hearing aids would fall out. Do I look ridiculous in the photos they capture or do I keep my ears intact!? I had to learn to be okay with taking my hearing aids out and putting them somewhere safe during the ride and miss out on hearing everyone scream alongside me.
“Do I look ridiculous in the photos they capture or do I keep my ears intact!?”
Children, though, are not always the most responsible. I worried that if any situation required me to take my hearing aids out, I would leave them somewhere or worse, lose them altogether. If I put them in my pocket, I would check constantly that they were still there. If I put them in my swim bag, I would check before and after a race to make sure they had not been misplaced.
I lost a lot of sleep after a fire drill at school where we had to practice escaping from a burning room. The thought of being in my room alone at night without my hearing aids on meant I ran the risk of not being able to hear the fire alarm go off. By association, this meant possibly being suffocated by smoke! There was a period of time there where I made a bed on the floor next to my parents’ bed because of this.
In school, I feared not being in the front row where I could see the teacher. Call me a nerd, but I needed to be able to see the teacher in order to know what was going on. Lip reading was my salvation. It was how I could keep up with the other students in class. I remember the first day of class, I went up to my teachers and requested a spot right up front – anything I could do to help myself from having to spend time at home relearning what was discussed in class.
While many of these scary moments are still prevalent today to some extent, looking back on these things reminded me that as we grow older, we evolve and our fears shift. These things can seem extremely daunting as a child with hearing loss. Overcoming these fears ultimately helps shape us into stronger people as we continue to navigate in a predominantly hearing world!
What were your fears as a child with hearing loss?