The 15-year-old, now living in the United Kingdom, was born with severe unilateral hearing loss in her right ear and has worn a hearing aid for her whole life. As a child, Aliya didn’t talk about her hearing loss, nor did she completely understand the purpose of her hearing aid. Now as a deaf teen, Aliya is proud of her Phonak Sky Q hearing aid and wants to spark a conversation about what it is like to have hearing loss.
Wearing a hearing aid felt like a daily habit to Aliya. I was a normalized task that her parents asked her to do from a young age. While this is a great habit to have, especially as a child, it left Aliya wondering more about why she wore her hearing aid.
“I had started wearing hearing aid not long after I was born so when I reached an inquisitive age, I thought of putting on and using my hearing aid as a part of my daily routine,” says Aliya. “However, when I was around eight years old I started to fully understand what was going on in my ears and I think that when I did, I was both scared and relieved.”
Aliya felt scared when she realized none of her other friends wore hearing aids but felt relieved to have a better understanding of why she wears hearing aids.
As a teenager, Aliya has learned the importance of being confident with hearing loss and wants other teens to know that being different never needs to be negative.
“Don’t stay silent about your hearing loss,” Aliya recommends. “It can be extremely scary at first, but people can be really understanding, and it will boost your confidence! I have realized that the best thing a teen with hearing loss can do for themselves is to wear their hearing aid and speak up!”
While Aliya encourages others to be confident with hearing loss, she also recognizes the challenges that come along with being a deaf teen.
“Even if you are the only one out of a 1,000 in your school with hearing loss – wear your hearing aid,” Aliya advises. “Seek that extra help, if you find yourself struggling in class. People will talk about your hearing loss, but you do not need to listen or think twice about it.”
One of the toughest environments for Aliya to be in is a loud social environment.
“I have always found social settings to be a challenge because of my strained hearing and so I have had to make an extra effort to engage with other people and get my opinions heard in a room full of people,” Aliya explains.
One way Aliya has worked on putting herself out of her comfort zone to grow and be more comfortable in these social situations is by joining Model United Nations (MUN.) Being a part of MUN means that she has to improvise a speech in front of a large crowd. Achieving success in this area of her life has given her the ability to better navigate other social events. When in a social situation she pays close attention to the speaker she is talking to. Also, she isn’t afraid to speak up and advocate for herself if she didn’t hear what was said.
Aliya’s parents also emphasized the impact that tough social situations can have on deaf teens.
“Be the reality checker for them and support them emotionally,” Aliya’s mother Folake says. “Read widely and get professional support about how to do this if necessary. Check that teachers and classmates and friends are supportive. Make sure that you stay on top of audiological and related checks to identify anything that may be done to ensure that the teen continues to be properly equipped to learn and function socially. Most importantly be available. Be mentally present so that you can be a safe place for your teen.”
Although it can be hard to overcome challenges, Aliya explains how empathy has helped her live a life without limits.
“However, to be limitless a person must put themselves in the shoes of everyone else and live from multiple perspectives, she says. “This makes life exciting and adventurous because we get to be different characters of our life story, and therefore the opportunities and outcomes are limitless.”