When I became a parent I was still in denial about my hearing loss, even though it had started almost 10 years prior. My father also had hearing loss, but never discussed it. I remember him actively hiding it from friends and even family when I was a child. We all knew — it is a very hard thing to hide — but it was never discussed. An unmentionable.
My family was not supportive of him. My mother would whisper comments to my sister and me behind his back. When we asked her about it she would reply, “Don’t worry, he can’t hear us.” This behavior taught me that hearing loss was something shameful and that my father should not expect any help from the family to help him cope. I look back on our behavior with regret.
So when I began having trouble hearing as an adult, I was horrified, and ashamed. I hid it the best I could, following in my father’s footsteps. I rarely disclosed it, and refused to wear my hearing aids any more than absolutely necessary.
But then I had children.
Since my loss was genetic I worried that I may have passed it onto them, as my father had done to me. I didn’t want to continue the cycle of contempt and shame. I didn’t want them to see me hiding my hearing loss or feeling embarrassed by it.
I needed to face these five truths.
My hearing loss had always been personal, but, as a parent, this was no longer true. I could feel my children’s eyes on me, watching me. Every action, every word, every emotion was observed and assimilated into their view of the world. It was up to me what example to set.
Everyday I beat back the stigma of hearing loss in hopes of creating a better world for them, should they develop hearing issues later in life. I needed to sort through the mistakes of my past and to find the right path forward.
My hearing loss is not an unmentionable in our family, but is a regular topic of discussion, just like what is for dinner. My children and I talk about how they can help me hear my best. I am confident they will be better prepared to cope with the ups and downs of hearing loss should they experience it themselves.
I’m not sure why my father felt the need to hide his hearing loss. Was he afraid we would not love him if he were not perfect? My family has been supportive and understanding of my strengths and my weaknesses.
Acknowledging my weaknesses helps my children see that nobody’s life is perfect. We all have struggles, but if we work together with respect and love, we can overcome almost any challenge.
My children showed me how to accept my hearing loss. I thank them for helping me be a stronger, braver, and more loving person, and for forcing me to embrace myself as I am.
Readers, have your children forced you to come to grips with your hearing loss? I’d love to read about your experiences in the comments below.