deaf space
What is deaf space and how is it designed?
April 17, 2019
aging
Why age-related hearing loss should not be ignored
April 19, 2019

Two young women share how their views on hearing loss have changed

views on hearing loss
Phonak hEARo Ashley and HLM editor Kirsten recently met in person for the first time after an online friendship was built from their mutual love for travel and understanding of what it means to be a hard of hearing girl in a predominantly hearing world.

“Even though it was our first in-person interaction, we agreed it felt as if we were talking to ourselves in the mirror.” Ashley says. “We quickly realized our paths growing up were very similar, yet very different. It was easy to resonate with each other on a lot of the same struggles we dealt with as a child and still do to this day – our fears of the game telephone, talking in loud and dark places, sleepovers, and not being perceived as normal.”

We decided it only made sense to write a collaboration piece.

After brainstorming back and forth about what we could write about, we kept circling back to this idea about how our views on our hearing loss have changed drastically from when we were younger to now. We both resented our hearing loss when we were younger, and now it’s like we’re making it our life’s mission to share our stories and experiences with hearing loss in hopes that we can help others like us.

Despite having different stories and journeys, here is what we have both learned along the way.

1) Fear doesn’t have to control your decisions

Kirsten: My heart was racing as I rushed to meet one of our Phonak hEARos, Ashley, for the first time. Meeting people in the community my team is working to grow has always been one of my favorite parts of the job. It is the ultimate reward and humbles me in a great way.

Ashley and I had been working together via the internet for almost a full year. Although I had never met her, we had connected over many topics and I felt like I knew her. Meeting with Ashley was powerful because our stories were so closely aligned, yet so drastically different.

Ashley and I openly talked about why we were so afraid to be different. Why couldn’t we embrace our differences? Was there a traumatic incident that happened that made us feel like we couldn’t be our authentic selves and show our true colors? No. Neither of us had experienced any extreme teasing or bullying. Regardless, this fear held onto us throughout school, with friends and dating.

We came to the realization that we had built this fear in our heads about what would happen if we were open about our hearing loss.

Growing up, I often chose to not wear my hearing aids, which gave more power to my fear. When I gave into this fear, I often missed out on opportunities because I was too afraid. My grades suffered because my pride overcame my ability to ask for help, and I often felt small in social outings because I couldn’t keep up with the conversation. Finally, after college, I decided that this fear didn’t deserve any more of my attention. This was freeing and it felt as though I was letting go of my secret, which was my hearing loss.

“This was freeing and it felt as though I was letting go of my secret, which was my hearing loss.”

 

Ashley: I shared a similar feeling of excitement when going to meet Kirsten. Over the years, I’ve only met a handful of people my age with hearing loss, and each time I do, I’m reminded that I’m not alone in my worries. I desperately needed my hearing aids to function in school, but I was terrified of wearing my hair up to expose my hearing aids for all the world to see.

“I was terrified of wearing my hair up to expose my hearing aids for all the world to see.”

Nobody else had them, so they surely wouldn’t understand why I did, I thought.

I’ve come to realize that no matter who you are, we all want to feel a sense of belonging and being liked but at a certain point, if you can’t like yourself or be true to yourself, how can anyone else like you? I was tired of not liking myself because deep down I knew there was a lot I did like about myself. Similar to what Kirsten said, the moment I decided I liked me was the moment I finally climbed over the “fear wall” that was my hearing loss

2) Find your community

Kirsten: How did I go from pretending my hearing loss doesn’t exist to waking up every morning thinking about hearing loss? I realized that I was never going to get over my fear of being different unless I faced it head-on. I wanted to explore my hard of hearing identity and join the journey of others in the same boat as me. Every day I learn something new about myself through my work as editor of HearingLikeMe.com and through this community.

The strength and bravery I see from others encourages me to be my best self and has taught me to be more compassionate towards my own hearing loss. Being vulnerable and connecting with this community has helped me in unimaginable ways. Even admitting a small truth that only someone with hearing loss would understand is powerful.  Several times I admitted to Ashley the small ways that my hearing loss has impacted me. For example, I used to fall asleep on my homework all the time because of listening fatigue, or when my friends would have movie night, I’d have to go through the whole captioning explanation. Often when I told people I wear hearing aids, they didn’t understand what I was saying!

When I talked to Ashley about these issues, I didn’t have to provide any more explanations to my statements as I immediately felt understood. Finding someone who understood me felt as if a huge weight had been taken off of me. The empathy and understanding we receive from others push us to be stronger on our journey. My hope is that anyone who can relate will share their story and connect with us.

“The empathy and understanding we receive from others push us to be stronger on our journey.”

Ashley: For so long, I was feeling trapped by my hearing loss. I decided that on the very slim chance that I might interact with someone like me, I needed to put myself out there. When an opportunity came along for me to travel with a group of people for a year, I found a clean slate. I, too, wanted to explore my hard of hearing identity and learn more about the culture that surrounds people like me. I began blogging about my experiences with hearing loss and made it a mission to learn about the deaf and hard of hearing communities in the countries that I visited. In fact, this outward expression is what led me to finding and connecting with this incredible HearingLikeMe community.

Since doing so, I’ve been interacting daily with someone somewhere in the world about our commonalities when it comes to living life with hearing loss. It’s taught me so much about myself and the world around me. This newfound comfort and community has pushed me in the best ways possible. I’m challenged repeatedly to face my struggles head-on. I’m inspired regularly by people who continuously defy the odds of society. Also, I’m determined to spread awareness about our unique community in hopes that maybe one person resonates or that they may not have to endure the battles I did growing up.

“I’m determined to spread awareness about our unique community in hopes that maybe one person resonates or that he/she may not have to endure the battles I did growing up.”

3) You won’t always be out of your shell, and that is OK

Kirsten: Ashley and I have chosen to put our hearing loss experience to the front and center of our lives, but that doesn’t mean our hearing loss defines us. It also doesn’t mean that we are completely comfortable with our hearing losses. We still experience bumps and blocks throughout our journeys. Moments of insecurity will sneak up on you and that is okay. Whether it is hesitating while putting your hair up, changing a battery discreetly, or not advocating for yourself; it happens. A part of the journey is accepting the highs and lows that come with self-exploration. Be curious about the feelings that come up when you run into them. When they appear, use the opportunity to learn from them rather than to fear them.

“We have chosen to put our hearing loss experience to the front and center of our lives, but that doesn’t mean our hearing loss defines us.”

Ashley: Similar to our hiding phase, there was not really one event that sparked our interest in being involved in the hearing loss community. As we grew older, we both started to hit a point where we realized people have their own problems to deal with and therefore are less concerned with the problems we’re facing. In that, it’s not worth hiding who we are. We were born with our hearing loss for a reason, so it’s time to figure out how to make the most of it.

That being said, it’s important to note that we are not always out and proud about our hearing loss and experiences associated, but rather we’re more like turtles – out of our shells most of the time, but every now and then something will revert us to our 13-year-old selves. We might never be perfectly comfortable, but we’ll continue to progress.

There are no right or wrong answers for your own hearing loss journey. Each path and person is different, and that is a-okay!

Join us! Share your story or introduce yourself to the HearingLikeMe community on Facebook and Instagram, or apply to be a Phonak hEARo

Article Authors

ashleyderrington
ashleyderrington
Ashley is a 28-year-old who loves to travel and try new things. She has bi-lateral, severe hearing loss, and wears a Phonak Naída V-SP hearing aid in one ear and has an Esteem implant in the other.She plays soccer for the USA Women’s National Deaf Team. She’s currently traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and perspective while also learning about the deaf and hard of hearing communities in various countries. Her travels can be followed on instagram @ashley5chanel or on her blog deaftattooedandemployed.com.
Kirsten Brackett
Kirsten Brackett
Kirsten is the managing editor of Hearing Like Me. She has a moderate hearing loss and currently wears Phonak Audéo B-R rechargeable hearing aids.Outside of working for Hearing Like Me, she can be found exploring new cities, trying out new recipes in her kitchen, or hiking. She loves learning about different cultures and languages.

.author-box-1 .desc-wrapper { background: rgba(0,0,0,.02); padding: 20px; position: relative; margin-left: 105px;}.author-box{display:none !important;}

  • New tab
Avatar
Author Details
Ashley is a 28-year-old who loves to travel and try new things. She has bi-lateral, severe hearing loss, and wears a Phonak Naída V-SP hearing aid in one ear and has an Esteem implant in the other. She plays soccer for the USA Women’s National Deaf Team. She’s currently traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and perspective while also learning about the deaf and hard of hearing communities in various countries. Her travels can be followed on instagram @ashley5chanel or on her blog deaftattooedandemployed.com.
×
Avatar
Ashley is a 28-year-old who loves to travel and try new things. She has bi-lateral, severe hearing loss, and wears a Phonak Naída V-SP hearing aid in one ear and has an Esteem implant in the other. She plays soccer for the USA Women’s National Deaf Team. She’s currently traveling the world in pursuit of adventure and perspective while also learning about the deaf and hard of hearing communities in various countries. Her travels can be followed on instagram @ashley5chanel or on her blog deaftattooedandemployed.com.
Latest Posts
  • fears as a child with hearing loss
  • falling on deaf ears
  • hearing aid molds as milestones