After not accepting, facing, or even talking about my own hearing loss for close to 30 years, I recently started to become fascinated by it. Now, I can’t stop talking about it. What caused this fascination? Living through so many scenarios in life where I missed out, yet still hearing enough that I felt misunderstood and I was desperate to understand what was going on. I realized that witnessing my dad’s hearing challenges growing up has taught me a lot over the years. Feeling connected to his situation through my lived experiences, I’ve not only investigated my own hearing loss, but have also been starting to learn more about my family history of hearing loss particularly on my dad’s side of the family.
My father is happy to discuss his hearing loss since I’ve been wanting to know more. So, this past year, I have been asking him more about our family history.
He was diagnosed with hearing loss in seventh grade and had some troubles hearing in class, but didn’t get hearing aids until his 40’s or 50’s. It didn’t seem necessary due to his hearing loss not being “big enough.” He has been gradually losing more hearing since then and now has moderately severe-profound hearing loss, being primarily in the severe range.
My father said his dad, grandfather, cousins, and uncles all had hearing loss. Though I have never met these individuals on his side of the family (partly because my dad was already middle age when I was born), I believe each one of them wore hearing aids and also gradually lost more hearing as time went on.
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Although my father was able to “get by” and even thrive in some communication settings, I grew up witnessing many times he was left out of conversations. For example:
“People assumed he was being rude, but he literally could not hear them.”
Read more: Ending my hearing loss isolation
Most people in my dad’s surroundings did not understand his hearing loss, but I was able to understand it due to living through my own similar challenges.
I have come to realize that people will make judgments out of ignorance. My dad would say: “Huh?” with his hand behind his ear, but he was never a strong advocate for himself. If he missed out in groups, he tended to let things go and just follow along the best he could. He is a very patient person and made the best of his situation, regardless.
Read more: 10 Misconceptions about Hearing Loss
Hearing aids have enabled my dad to hear in a variety of settings. Without them, he is unable to communicate.
Hearing aids have made it possible for my dad to live life as a hearing person, and he seems to get by just fine for the most part. He cares about his family and wants to be able to interact with them.
I have recently tried to get him and my mother involved in learning ASL to go along with the hearing aids, and they attempted to learn, but learning a language at a later age can be challenging. My mom’s side of the family is musical, and sitting around listening to my grandfather play the accordion was something my father always enjoyed. He was happy to hear the sound of the birds again. Also, he always gets excited talking about the sounds he could hear that had started to fade over the years.
“He was happy to hear the sound of the birds again.”
He started his own charitable organization to help individuals in need of support, which now has one of the largest food pantries in the area it is located. Although he gave presentations and performed as the face of the organization, as soon as he came home, he would unwind on the couch, reading a book or the newspaper. He can socialize in spoken situations, but I believe he gets drained more easily than others.
After living through my own experiences on top of seeing my dad’s experiences, I have become fascinated with learning about as many different ways to communicate and assist with understanding as possible.
Learning as much as you can to improve your situation helps you embrace who you are as a person. Hearing loss was never something that was embraced in my family and this is something that I am trying to change.
I am learning about every way possible to make my experience the best I can while accommodating my hearing loss:
“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” -Tony Robbins.