I’ve always viewed my hearing loss as an annoyance and a setback, but the Deaf world opened my mind to a perspective I never even imagined could be possible. This is something for which I seriously thank the Deaf world, as changing my viewpoint on what hearing loss means to me is changing my life. Here are nine steps I have used to go from coping with hearing loss to thriving.
According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, on average it takes around seven years for someone to accept their hearing loss and seek help for it. Because my loss was milder, it took me 30 years of buildup to take mine seriously, even with missing out in a variety of situations. In order to accept my hearing loss, I needed to stop pushing my frustrations away. I needed to face my pains. I needed to learn how to speak up when I miss out and how to ask for what I need.
Also, I needed more awareness to get to this point. I took a Deaf Culture class that went into depth on the history of Deaf individuals. This really opened my eyes to oppression deaf and hard of hearing people have received. After this, I started to analyze every one of my own personal experiences. I had to deal with this anger before I could fully accept and love the parts of me that society considers a flaw.
I had spent my life feeling broken due to society’s perspective, which led to me this quote:
“In Japan, broken objects are often repaired with gold. The flaw is seen as a unique piece of the object’s history, which adds to its beauty.” -Barbara Bloom
Educate yourself. Try out different things. See what works for you and what you need in order to understand what is happening in your surroundings. This may include finding a good audiologist, getting hearings aids, and an FM system. Also, more accommodations including, Bluetooth interfaces, captioning telephones, using video calls, flashing devices for the house (doorbells, smoke alarms, alarm clocks, etc). More methods of communication such as learning sign language or bringing interpreters/transcribers in your job and school.
You have a right to what you need and if you experience trouble, reach out and ask someone for help. Hearing aids are expensive; but there are resources, like Vocational Rehabilitation, that will assist if you are in the workforce or trying to enter. Also, you have legal rights under the ADA for equal access. Make sure you are aware of your rights.
I would often zone out in classrooms and meeting rooms because I struggled to hear. Over time, zoning out was my new norm. Hearing can be exhausting when you have to work harder at understanding what is being said. As soon as I started learning ASL, I felt an instant connection with the language.
This is the first time I had ever been fully focused in a classroom. The more I learned to sign, the more I noticed my ADHD starting to slowly disappear in the classroom and other areas of my life as well. ASL not only improved my ADHD, but it is also improving my socialization skills, my brain processing, and my visual awareness.
“The more I learned to sign, the more I noticed my ADHD starting to slowly disappear in the classroom and other areas of my life as well.”
Read more: How to learn sign language
Hearing aids are a tool that help many people. But what if they could be more than that? After starting my sign language journey and seeing so much pride in the Deaf community, I was also inspired to make my hearing aids more exciting. I am trying to remove the stigma attached to hearing aids. Most hearing aids are designed to be small so they are not seen. People try to blend in with society, and they get their hearing aids skin-colored and hide them behind their hair. But why are we so ashamed? What if they could be a fashion statement?
I recently decided to accessorize my hearing aids so I could wear them as jewelry. I intentionally picked bigger hearing aids and earmolds to make them fun. When something is fun, I get more excited to wear it. First of all, I picked earmolds that are colorful and glittery. In order to do this, I had to order pediatric hearing aids. In the back of my mind, it made me wonder: why is it that kids can have fun with hearing aids, but not adults? Why aren’t manufacturers making hearing aids more fun for everyone?
“I recently decided to accessorize my hearing aids so I could wear them as jewelry.”
Of course, this requires that people want and ask for fun colors before they will make more. Someone inspired me with their colorful hearing aids and I have, in turn, inspired a couple of people as well. I feel that we should keep this trend moving forward as it is a positive direction. I bought earrings and charms to attach to my hearing aids from Etsy.com. This makes them really stand out. Of course, you still want to get the right kind of hearing aids for your loss. But a big question that has been in my mind: why are we trying to hide or fit in as a “norm” rather than embrace who we are?
Read more: NEWSFLASH: Hearing aids ARE cool!
The Phonak ComPilot Air has been the most amazing piece of technology to pair with the hearing aids, in my opinion. I chose the Air model instead of the neck loop because it works better when I’m active. Listening to music or talking on the phone while walking my dog, is something I love. I jam out to music while I grocery shop. The other device I have hooks up to my television. I normally rely on captions to watch TV and movies, and I still leave them on, but this helps me focus more on the scene and the visuals.
Over the years, I have come to realize that being in-between worlds, I am doing best connected with both technology and sign language. I want to use my hearing aids as a tool to interact with the hearing world to bring awareness about the Deaf and hard of hearing communities, but I want to be connected to the Deaf world because I absolutely love what Deaf stand for. I am trying to figure out how I can utilize my middle place to be a bridge and an advocate.
Read more: Finding Community in the Deaf/deaf World
I am connecting myself to Deaf and hard of hearing individuals in my work and in my social interactions. It’s important to be positive support, but also important to find those with similar goals. I believe connecting with those in common is how we really thrive.
When I analyzed my past, I felt like I was treated unfairly and that things should have been done differently. This is how change is made. Now that I have awareness from personal experience, I can be an advocate for those who are in a similar position so they can get better services than I did. We are constantly learning and trying to make this world a better place for our future, and I feel this gives me a sense of purpose.
As much as we want to make a change by fixing the complex issues at the bottom of the iceberg, we must work on the tip of the iceberg to get down to that point. We have more influence on the small bits than we do on the big picture. So rather than get overwhelmed by the number and size of the issues, we should help where we can. Helping even just one person can make a bigger difference than we realize.
Learning to thrive is a process. I think part of this journey is learning to love what society has seen as a flaw. This makes us unique, as we are able to see from various perspectives we wouldn’t have seen otherwise. This is not something that happens overnight. There are still frustrations that can happen. That is life. This journey is teaching me to become better with socializing, to stop avoiding people, and to put myself out there. I am learning to become comfortable in my own skin in public, but this is a work in progress.
“I think part of this journey is learning to love what society has seen as a flaw.”
Trying to figure out how I identify in the Deaf world and trying to become fully fluent with sign language is an entire journey of its own. I have seen strong pride from individuals in the Deaf world and these people absolutely have inspired me. I am thankful where that has led me on my journey. But also, I am still searching for my community and I believe that is the key element that I am missing in my thriving process.
“Remember, you alone get to choose what matters and what doesn’t. The meaning everything in your life has precisely the meaning you give it” -marcandangel
How have you learned to thrive with your hearing loss?