I often focus on the difficulties that surround my inability to hear perfectly. Therefore I forget to acknowledge the specific times when my hearing loss has been an advantage.
As I think about these instances, it’s hard to imagine what the results would’ve been if it weren’t for my hearing loss. Some of these are big life moments!
It’s funny how we’ve all become attached to our phones, yet none of us like using them for their original purpose – phone calls. Phones have always been challenging for me, and at times, stressful. Thanks to my hearing loss, I frequently use them as an excuse to get out of telemarketer calls that can drag on for way too long.
Getting caught out in the rain or being pressured to jump in the pool with your clothes on can happen more often than you think. Who wants to come across as a total girl for not wanting to get your hair wet? I credit my hearing loss (can’t get the hearing aids wet!) for saving me from many embarrassing situations of being stuck in wet clothes.
Because of my hearing loss, when I’m focused on something, that is my sole focus. I’m not able to pay attention to the stuff happening around me, at least not well. Often times, I’ll be watching movies or TV with friends, and they’ll be talking over it. Thanks to my lip reading skills and ability to tune out and focus on one thing at a time, I’m able to enjoy the entertainment with or without noise. When it comes to work or school, I can zone out the stuff around me and zoom in on the work in front of me. Similarly, if a conversation is happening that I don’t want to be a part of, I can turn my attention to something else and I’m no longer involved in the conversation. In this way, I’ve been able to stay out of drama and just sit back and watch from afar.
While I was offered many resources in school in regards to my hearing loss, there were only a few things I took advantage of. I often requested notetakers. They made extra money and I had another set of notes in addition to my own. After all, two is better than one. I also took the opportunity to sign up for classes early before the general public. This usually meant I could pick the best teachers in their subjects.
This is perhaps one of the first times I openly discussed my hearing loss without feeling guilty or like I was taking the easy way out. Many colleges look to diversify their student body. On paper, I looked like any other person from my high school class, a white straight-A female. Unless I explained my story, they would have no real way of knowing how I could contribute to their diversity. Upon submitting my essay, I received a call from an admissions counselor explaining how I was exactly the kind of student the university looked to accept. Finally, I felt like my hearing loss was working in my favor.
Discrimination is real. For most of my earlier working years, I never dared to check the “disability” box on job applications. Companies may pride themselves on being equal opportunity employers. But if given a choice between someone who can answer calls versus someone who is not confident on the phone, I think we both know which route they’re going. More recently, however, I’ve made it known to potential employers from the get-go about my hearing loss.
Additionally, I would never be able to hone in on my writing skills and contribute to this amazing community if it wasn’t for my hearing loss. The job market is not an easy place to navigate. But I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunities in the workforce that my hearing loss has afforded me.
I’ve always worried that I don’t have the same chance of representing my country in the service, sports, politics, you name it. But where there’s a will, there’s a way! Thanks to our niche little deaf/hard of hearing bubble, I’m able to represent the USA as a member of the USA Deaf Women’s National Soccer Team. Playing sports on a national level is incredibly difficult. I knew I was never going to achieve the caliber needed to play soccer professionally. This unique market, however, has worked to my advantage. Playing high-level soccer while representing my country is something I may not have otherwise had a chance to be a part of.
I’ve been challenging myself to change my mindset: to be grateful for my hearing loss, to think of the benefits I reap because of it, and to make it known that while I’m different, I can offer a lot to the world.
In what situations has your hearing loss worked to your advantage?