On Being a Teen with Hearing Loss
According to my mom, as soon as I got home she took me onto our back porch, where a bird was singing. I had never heard that noise before, and the sound intrigued me. My mom says I sat on the porch for hours that day, taking in my new world. Little did I know that technology would change my life, with each new advancement.
I’m 16 years old, now, and a junior in high school. If I were to tell you that life with hearing loss is as simple as I mentioned above, I’d be lying. Living with a disability is a journey. There are lessons to learn, challenges to overcome, and situations to adapt to; but most of all, experiences to enjoy. High school taught me all of this.
Now Hear This… Not
My parents decided to send me to a private high school. Everyone there was very friendly, and the administration bought me a new FM system. The staff was eager to learn what they could do, and they were always ready to help me. There were things I had to get used to, though. This was the first time that I didn’t have a speech therapist at school, or an expert to go to with hearing problems I might encounter. The biggest shock I had was that I was the only hearing-impaired student in the school. Life went on, however, and became as normal as normal can be for a student with hearing loss.
One day I heard a bit of static in my ear from my FM system. It went as quickly as it came, so I didn’t think much of it. Then, I started to get feedback in my other classes to the point where I heard static all day. I eventually asked my audiologist what I should do. She showed me how to change the channels on my FM system and it was a miracle! But, then I started getting static again. Despite how much I would change the channel, there were no static-free frequencies.
I learned to accept it, but I had to work even harder to keep up with my classmates. I would study for hours trying to fill in the missing gaps from the lesson. I paid extra hard attention in class, so I could lip read! Despite all the extra challenges I got good grades, so I was okay with the way things were—for the most part.
Yet, there were still things I couldn’t control. My biggest obstacle was my Spanish II class. While I excelled at the writing and reading part of class, listening and speaking? Well, those weren’t really my forte. I dreaded my listening quizzes because the static interference made them nearly impossible. I remember listening to the quiz prompt one day, and getting interference pretty much the whole time. I was used to this, so I did my best to complete the quiz. My teacher told me later that I got a D on my quiz, and mentioned how unlike me that was. To say I was upset would be an understatement. I explained my issues to her, and she let me retake the quiz.
A bit into my junior year I got a call from my audiologist. She said that Phonak had a new, wireless microphone system, called Roger, which just might solve my problems. My parents bought it for me. I would be the first to use Roger in Columbus, Ohio! I was excited to try it, but didn’t really give the whole thing a lot of thought. The next day at school I gave the new transmitter to my teacher, and took a seat. Class started and I seriously felt as if I were dreaming! I had no interference AT ALL! My teacher’s words were so clear. I almost asked my friend to pinch me. It was too good to be true.
I was amazed how easy learning became, once I was able to hear well. I am naturally a shy person, but I started to participate more in class. Before, discussions had always been foggy, and I was always trying to piece together the classroom conversation puzzle. Now that I could hear, however, I was less self-conscious and didn’t mind answering questions. My teachers started to notice. One questioned me about it. I realized that because I could hear clearly, I had become less afraid to let teachers know when I needed help with things. I started talking to my classmates more about my Roger mic, and asked them use it so I could hear during group discussions.
When my next listening quiz rolled around, it was so clear! I could hear perfectly. I was amazed when I got my quiz back to find a big “100%” scribbled across the top. I was in shock! Like they did in Spanish, my grades in other classes started to get better, too. Technology had once again changed my life.
That day when I sat on my porch listening to a bird sing seems like a long time ago. I am almost a senior in high school now, and looking forward to the next chapter in my life—college. I may not know what that will hold, but at least I know that now, thanks to technology’s advancements, I will have the equipment to help me be the most successful person I can be.
Annie has started a conversation for teens in the HearingLikeMe forums. You can check it out here.