Until recently as an adult, I never could understand why people would be apologetic about my hearing loss. Through my experiences and learning psychology in school, I now understand why I received the response “sorry,” but I want you to know that there is no reason to apologize for my hearing loss.
The “sorry” response never made sense to me as a child. My mother had always instilled that my hearing loss was something that made me unique from others as opposed to a disability or a hindrance. With that being said, I simply couldn’t put my finger on why this was such a common response.
Especially in middle school when I struggled with bullying often due to my hearing loss. It made me question; is there something wrong with me? Are people seeing something about me that I’m not? Is my hearing loss a problem? I had all of these questions running through my head on a daily basis during this particular time and stage in my life.
Growing up a lot since then, getting to know the world and society more, having different experiences, and now being a psychology major; I finally get it. There is an evident stigma surrounding disabilities in society that when people see someone with a disability regardless of what that disability is, all kinds of associations and judgments are made about them. Many automatically think of incapability, burden, low-functioning, but more often than not, these false assumptions really couldn’t be farther from the truth. Especially with hearing loss and deafness.
The truth is, we’re no less able or capable due to our hearing loss or deafness. Since we simply cannot hear or hear differently, we communicate differently. Some of us use certain kinds of technology or adapt to our environments at times but that doesn’t make us any less of a person. We can do anything anyone else can do even if we have to do it differently.
“The truth is, we’re no less able or capable due to our hearing loss or deafness.”
To you, my hearing loss may be a disability but to me, it’s me. My hearing loss is a part of me, it’s something I have always had and always will have but it’s something that I wouldn’t change for the world because although it does not define me, it’s a big part of what makes me, me. I am who I am today because of my experiences and because of my hearing loss. It has presented me with challenges at times, but those challenges have only made me that much stronger.
The next time someone tells you they have hearing loss, that they’re deaf, or even if they tell you they have any kind of disability, try asking questions instead of replying “I’m sorry”. Try to understand what you may be curious about. For instance, some questions you could ask include:
1. What is it like being hard of hearing or deaf?
2. What kinds of struggles or challenges do you face with being hard of hearing or deaf?
3. What do you wish more people know about the hard of hearing/deaf community?
Asking such questions could not only open your eyes to a world you may not have known much about but also allow us to know that you’re genuinely curious instead of feeling judged.