Those of us living with hearing loss, we try to manage our lives and abilities as best we can. Try as we might to avoid the pitfalls, the challenges we face have a way of turning everything on its head. Facing a crisis like hearing loss can result in many things – from getting support and staying centered, to depression, isolation, and giving up. But when I started writing about it, my perspective on hearing loss changed.
If, like me, you’ve experienced a full tray of those emotions, you may regard your hearing loss as a personal tragedy devoid of any special meaning beyond the struggles that ensue. I did for a long time. If you’re fortunate, your hearing loss might just steer you to a new path for your life, energies, and gifts.
Soon after my hearing loss occurred in the late ‘70s and early ’80s, I started compiling wisdom that I found on how to face a crisis like hearing loss. I entered it in notebooks to which I referred whenever trouble reared its ugly head. Those sayings often saved me from a bad hour, day, or week. Sometimes the words sat on the page unattended as I ignored them whenever I thought I had life under control. That didn’t last very long.
Two ideas caught my attention from the start and remain with me at difficult times. Matthew Henry, a Welsh minister, opined that there is “none so deaf as he who will not hear.” This spoke volumes to my cocky 29-year old self. What words did I not hear and what actions did I not take before I lost my hearing?
“…none so deaf as he who will not hear.”
The other was a somewhat mischaracterized Chinese proverb that “within every crisis is an opportunity.” This one held out hope, for surely there had to be an opportunity lurking in this crisis I was facing. But what, where, when, and how would it appear?
“…within every crisis is an opportunity.”
I thought I had found it on several occasions. My first job post hearing loss was in the natural food business which inspired me to pay more attention to diet and nutrition. My health improved and I liked to think, my hearing did as well.
Read more: Health and Hearing: A Broader View (Part I)
My interest in food led me to work with small farmers for whom I ran a non-profit. I helped them increase farm revenue through agritourism. Were these the opportunities I was waiting for?
Despite several other opportunities and little victories, my challenges persisted as did a darker perspective on my fate. I was never sure what crisis was pointing me to what opportunity and how any of them that might help my hearing or help me regain my lost music career. And was there a one-size- fits-all opportunity down the road somewhere that would change everything? There was.
In 2014, I was invited to write for HearingLikeMe. I didn’t know it at the time, but here was a path to my redemption. It was a platform from which I could reach out from the void and raise myself up. I discovered aspects of my story in the stories of those about whom I wrote. More importantly, writing gave me a role to play in encouraging and helping others.Then, in 2016, while writing an article for a magazine, I found myself declaring for the very first time that writing for HearingLikeMe may have saved my life.
I wasn’t expecting that. For many years I had written on different topics for a variety of purposes. Yet I had never experienced this depth of personal connection. I had always believed, simply, that if I persevered, the best I could hope for was an improvement, however slight, in my hearing, and a return to making music. That alone, I thought, would give meaning to my hearing loss and struggles.
Over several years now, and through dozens of articles, the more I thought, wrote, and spoke about hearing loss, the more my perspective about it changed. It went from being a meaningless personal tragedy to coming to terms and some peace about my life. As I wrote, more of me came into view, my interest in hearing loss-related issues expanded, and my self-assessment grew more positive.
“As I wrote, more of me came into view, my interest in hearing loss-related issues expanded, and my self-assessment grew more positive.”
I wrote about the death of my wife at an early age, struggling with her illness and how difficult it was to communicate in the last weeks of her life. That led me to describe the communication challenges that we all face with the hearing world and their impact on work, love, relationships, and much more.
I became a better listener as I discovered that hearing is not listening. That enlightenment led to me to engage in and write about aural rehabilitation. In the article, I talk about focused listening exercises that improved my speech comprehension, and I believe, my musical pitch.
Advances in hearing technology stunned and excited me and I followed those storylines to explore new toys and tools.
Coming to terms with my own isolation has been a recurring theme. In the process of writing about it, I discovered and quickly joined the local and national branch of the Hearing Loss Association of America.This opened up a world of people, places and things for managing and moving beyond hearing loss.
Getting your first hearing aid was an adventure worth exploring. So was finding the right audiologist and knowing when your hearing loss may be a medical emergency – something I know about all too well.
I’ve learned about finding happiness and peace from others whose disabilities dwarf my own, yet who carry on with resilience, hard work, and faith.
My passion for music gets its full attention. I’ve had the great pleasure of interviewing musicians, composers, and singers with hearing loss
who employed hearing aids, cochlear implants and strategies of their own ingenuity to negotiate the complex world of sound and somehow continue to make beautiful music. They in turn inspired me to join the Association of Adult Musicians with Hearing Loss (AAMHL).This is a community of amateur and professional musical friends with whom I share information, experiences and even the stage for live performances.
Professionally, writing for HearingLikeMe brought me to the attention of other editors, magazines and blogs. A state agency hired me to help rewrite and edit their revised “Guide to Hearing Loss.”
The opportunity I had been waiting for was writing about the crisis of hearing loss and redemption – my own and others. Doing so has made me feel better, closer, and more connected to family, friends and colleagues. It has given me additional guidance to reposition my life with hearing loss. Not surprisingly, now friends and family come to me for guidance with their own hearing issues.
Writing also gave me an international audience of people like me and with whom I could communicate, learn from, and perhaps in return, inspire. After years of trying to avoid fellow deaf people, I finally managed to connect with them. I found my place in the “real” world in which I live.
Looking back, I have had many opportunities since the onset of my hearing crisis. The most profound has been the invitation to write for HLM – a gift that keeps on giving.