I was born with hearing loss. At birth, I failed the first hearing test, but when they re-did the test I had ‘miraculously’ passed. But as life went on my parents began noticing things here and there. Eventually, after I failed a school hearing test, my family was referred to an ENT.
From there I was diagnosed with mild to moderately-severe sensorineural hearing loss in my right ear, and moderate to severe mixed hearing loss in my left ear. This diagnosis was not until I was in second grade. Currently, I wear Phonak Audeo V90 hearing aids in both ears.
I still remember my first time putting hearing aids on. I was sitting in my audiologist’s office with the box for the hearings aid in front of me. As I waited anxiously for the audiologist to explain what they are, how they worked, and warnings of how to protect them I was still in shock. When I first put them on, it sounded ‘tinny’ as I described it to my parents.
That was not even the highlight of that day. The moment that has been forever etched into my mind was when I went to scratch my head. It made a sound, it was unlike anything I had ever heard until I picked up a peppermint. That candy wrapper once again made an alien sound that I did not even comprehend at first. But those experiences made that day one of the most important in my life.
“That candy wrapper once again made an alien sound that I did not even comprehend at first.”
Although I have been surrounded by amazing supportive people, I have still faced challenges. Until I switched districts in middle school I faced the lack of responsiveness, a general misunderstanding, and a lack of care. I do not like to dwell on the past, but I use my experiences to shape my future. I also trust the fact that I am not alone.
Throughout my many experiences, I have met some truly awe-inspiring and amazing people. Even though most people do not need them, the people I have met with hearing aids have made such an impact on my life. When I received the honor of going to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp for trumpet, I met multiple people who had hearing aids, and I could tell they were in the same boat as me.
If I had any words of wisdom to pass along, it would be to tell other teens that they have a voice, and it needs to be heard. When I received the opportunity to be a Phonak Teen Advisor I instantly seized it. I knew that it meant the beginning of something amazing, and I was proud to be a part of it.
“If I had any words of wisdom to pass along, it would be to tell other teens that they have a voice, and it needs to be heard.”
Written by Finn’s mom Jennifer
“Finn has irreversible, bilateral hearing loss, I can point you down the hall where he can be fitted for hearing aids in both ears,” the doctor said to us.
My vision blurred from tears welling in my eyes, I felt like my own hearing was going, and I couldn’t even get my feet to move to follow the doctor. I was sweating, speechless and couldn’t even get my thoughts straight to ask any questions.
I looked at my husband in disbelief; he looked just as shocked as I was. Rather than having Finn fit with hearing aids, we grabbed our things and walked as fast as we could, not looking at anyone, down the stairs to our car. We shut the door and sat in silence for about 30 seconds then completely agreed the doctor was a “quack.”
Although not fully aware of it, this was our first step in the grieving process, denial. The ride home was quiet. When we got home, we continued our discussion on how off base the doctor was and if Finn had hearing loss we surely would know, we are his parents!
Our conversations over the next few days continued, and as they did, they began to fill with anger. Voices in my head repeating, What if Finn does have hearing loss? How could I have missed it? I was mad at the doctor, mad at myself for not standing up to that doctor and telling him he was a quack. I felt mad at the universe, I was mad at my husband just because I needed to be mad.
“What if Finn does have hearing loss? How could I have missed it?”
I began to pray as I laid in bed at night and I started the “what ifs.” Could this have been my fault? What if I listened to the radio too loud in the car while I was pregnant? What if I ate something while I was pregnant that attributes to hearing loss? The what if questions continued. What if, what if, what if? Hoping to avoid this hearing loss I would have promised God anything to make it untrue.
I began my own tests, catching Finn off guard and whispering his name when he had his back to me, hoping he would turn around. Making clicking noises or snapping my fingers to see if he would acknowledge the sound. I was sad, sad for Finn that he was “different” because usually “different” isn’t good.
Sad to think of the humility of wearing a hearing aid to school and having kids look at you differently. Sad he would be lost at school, missing important educational details that could affect his education. I wasn’t prepared for any of this. I’m not a big fan of the unknown but I knew I had to step up and take this on.
My attitude would be Finn’s attitude and Finn’s attitude would be his peer’s attitudes. It was a trickle effect and I began the trickle. It was our new reality and the best thing to do was be positive, educate myself and understand every step of the way. We never kept quiet about Finn’s hearing loss, we have always openly discussed it with family, friends, peers, and teachers.
I feel the openness to discussion gave him the ability to advocate for himself because the more he knows, the more confident he will be. Finn is comfortable with who he is. He is confident, intelligent, driven, outspoken and socially active.
“We never kept quiet about Finn’s hearing loss, we have always openly discussed it with family, friends, peer, and teachers.”
I look back now on those days of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression years ago and I actually feel quite silly for the way I saw the future. If there is one thing I would tell a mom today that is going through what I went through is, take a deep breath, stay positive, educate yourself, educate your child and make your story a good story.
Did you read the article about Phonak Teen Advisor Isaac? Check it out here!