Starting from elementary school, I immediately took on the label as the only hard of hearing child at school because of my visible hearing aids and my sound field system in the classroom.
At times it was no problem, but of course there were tough times too.
I remember my classmate’s mom spoke to my mom at a neighborhood event and described how her son didn’t like his class because the deaf girl was in it and the speaker was always too loud. Little did his mom know that she was talking to the ‘deaf girl’s’ mom.
Moments like these combined with having trouble hearing in social situations made me feel like my hearing loss was an inconvenience to myself and others, which made me want to be a part of the hearing world.
Looking back in elementary school and middle school I wore my hearing aids because I had to.
When I had more independence in high school and college, I often chose not to wear my hearing aids. I chose to miss out on sounds of life to avoid dealing with the social consequences I thought came with wearing hearing aids. My insecurities had won me over and I just wanted to fit in.
“I chose to miss out on sounds of life to avoid dealing with the social consequences I thought came with wearing hearing aids.”
I knew I could get away with not wearing hearing aids because I am a lip reader.
If I didn’t hear someone from far away or behind me I had accumulated excuses as to why I didn’t hear them.
I was frequently told it seemed like I didn’t have a hearing loss, which just encouraged my thinking that I didn’t need to wear hearing aids.
Whether I would admit to it or not, I did know that I was missing out on a lot without my hearing aids. When I would try to go back to wearing hearing aids, my brain would have to retrain itself, which resulted in more headaches and change.
I was stuck in a vicious circle.
A time came when I finally met deaf and hard of hearing teens for the first time. I was so grateful to be friends with a group of people that I could relate to, but it was only to a certain extent. Due to my hearing loss not being very severe, I couldn’t relate to many of their experiences. Again I couldn’t feel like I could fit in. I caught in the middle between two worlds.
When I graduated college I finally realized that I don’t need to choose a route, I just needed to learn how to navigate my middle ground.
I have learned to be grateful that I can relate to both hearing world and the hard of hearing world. It has taken 23 years for me to reach this point, but it is better late than never!
“It has taken 23 years for me to reach this point, but it is better late than never!”
I hope that by sharing my story, I can inspire others to realize they are not alone if they have ever been in a similar position along their hearing journey.
Know that your hearing aids aren’t going to magically help you hear everything. I know that I get frustrated when I don’t catch a sound while wearing my hearing aids. I catch myself thinking that because I have a mild/moderate hearing loss, my hearing aids should be able to pick up everything I am missing. This isn’t true.
Your hearing aids will help you, but it’s important to continue to advocate for the accommodations you may need or use another method that may help you. Whether it is a hearing accessory, closed captions, hearing rehab or sign language there are plenty of helping tools available.
If you are someone like me, who was the only hard of hearing child at school, receiving support from other hard of hearing people can be very helpful! Connect with local hearing groups, join the HearingLikeMe forum, participate in online chats, such as #hearinglosshour on Twitter. Sharing experiences will help you feel less alone, more confident with your hearing technology and can help inspire you to live confidently with your hearing loss.
Be patient with yourself as you learn to hear with your hearing aids. It is a process to get used to wearing your hearing aids. As technology improves, hearing aids are becoming easier to take care of and are more adaptable to modern lifestyles. Once I got in the habit of wearing my hearing aids I experienced a boost in confidence, I felt motivated to discover how I could utilize my hearing aid technology in tough listening environments and I experienced less concentration fatigue. This gave me more gratitude for hearing technology and how my hearing aids have helped me.
Also having patience when learning how to advocate for yourself is important. Even if you feel like your hearing loss isn’t severe enough to receive accommodations, it doesn’t matter! Everyone’s accommodations differ depending on their hearing loss. Take time to explore and see what works best for you.
Accept that you are unique in your own way and that you set your own pace for your hearing journey. Practice talking about your hearing loss with others, to prepare for a dialogue that may need to happen with someone who does not understand hearing loss or is only familiar with stigmas. This dialogue can also be useful if someone dismisses your hearing loss by saying that you can hear fine and don’t need extra hearing help. Education is key to breaking down barriers and can change a person’s outlook on how they view hearing loss.
Living with a hearing loss is a journey just as life is. There will be ups and downs and plenty of learning opportunities. Taking the time to find what accommodations and modes of communication work best for you is worth it in the end!