The Story of my Hearing Loss: Part 1

I’ve been writing a lot about hearing loss in the past few months. Sharing bits and pieces of myself in my characters, but not sharing my story. How I came to be who I am, which is an adult who is comfortable with her own hearing loss. The story is a long and winding road. Today I’ll start at the beginning.

I was born with what is called bilateral conductive hearing loss. Meaning my ears were not the same. I had nerve damage in both ears, bone damage in one. My left ear heard better than my right from day one. Only about 10 decibels separated the two, not a significant difference. And yet I learned to depend on my left ear over my right.

As an only child in a loud family my hearing loss wasn’t immediately discovered. My hearing loss is mild/moderate, meaning I was able to acquire language without hearing aids, I was able to hear and understand, even if not in every environment. In fact, I passed two hearing tests. In preschool tests were given to three students at the same time, facing each other.

Little known fact about kids/adults with a hearing loss: we’re very good at following the leader. We take our cues from our environments to figure out what is going on, and fill in the gaps from what our ears don’t hear. It’s as natural as breathing.

So there I am, watching my peers hear the beeps and raise their hands. I raise mine. The following year I had a one-on-one test. Each time the tester looked at me for a response I raised my hand. To this day I know when I’m supposed to be hearing something, and have to stare at a corner of the sound booth when taking a test.

It was my kindergarten hearing test that discovered my loss. The kind of test where there is a board blocking the tester and testee. I failed. The school sent a letter home to my parents, notifying them I failed.

I’ll save for another day my kindergarten teacher’s reaction. I’m sure she’s to blame for some of my insecure quirks.

My mom opened the letter, and was rightfully upset that no one bothered to call her about this. I got a hearing test and what do you know, I have a hearing loss. I was five and a half years old. The solution to my hearing loss? Hearing aids.

A story for another time, why hearing aids was not enough.

I was a go with the flow kind of kid. Learned how to take care of my hearing aids. Understood they couldn’t get wet, no one else should touch them, etc, etc. I went home and what felt like the following day for me (but my mother remembers it differently) I ran through my neighbor’s sprinkler. With my hearing aids on. I also remember being the bathtub and quickly yanking off my hearing aids and handing them to my mother.

To me, hearing aids were just something I now wore. I don’t remember any transition. Then again, I was young and I have an awful memory. My mother remembers me asking what the noise was in my room shortly after getting hearing aids. It was nighttime sounds. I had never heard them before.

And before anyone feels bad for me for not hearing nighttime sounds: I really don’t care whether I hear them or not. 

I never accepted myself as being disabled. I used the term “hearing impaired” but never felt impaired. To me, having a hearing loss was just who I was. Who I am.

In reality, having a hearing loss in a hearing world is not easy. More on that another day.

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I’m Not Disabled—And Neither Is My Character

I have a hearing loss. It’s a part of who I am, the same as the color of my eyes or the curl to my hair. Throughout my life it’s been both positive and negative. Regardless, it’s always been an IS.

I never identified with being disabled. Sure, I’m different than the norm. I have trouble hearing in certain situations. I wear hearing aids. But disabled? No. Even as a small child I never accepted this term. Different? Yes. Disabled. No.

I’ve been thinking of my hearing loss a lot lately. Because I’m revising a novel to make one of my main characters Hard of Hearing. I thought this would be easy. I don’t need to research hearing loss, or hearing aids. I don’t need to figure out what something sounds like. I was wrong.

Hearing loss is such a wide-open field. I had to decide what type of hearing aid my character wears. Both ears or one? Does the loss affect speech? How well does a character hear in a variety of different situations? How well does the character hear without hearing aids on?

Many questions, and it took me some time to figure out what the right combination was for the character, and what worked best for the plot. I’m still debating if the character has colored hearing aids or not. Personally I’m not opposed to color and hope to have purple in my next set (I currently have one in the ear hearing aid in flesh tones, and one behind the ear hearing aid with a clear shell and the inside mechanic visible).

The ultimate problem was simple: hearing loss is a part of my daily life. Reading captioning on the television: normal. Missing something that is said and needing it repeated: normal. Mishearing something and making a fool out of myself: embarrassing but normal. In writing a character with a hearing loss I have become extra aware of all those little nuances in my daily life that differ from a hearing persons. And I have the added challenge of putting those nuances in a plot.

No one wants to say “what” a million times a day. I do. No one wants to read “what” multiple times in each scene. It’s a challenge to keep the hearing loss front and center for the reader without making it too little or too much.

A large part of myself ended up transferred onto the page. I had a scene in mind for my character to be without hearing aids. The scene spoke to my own insecurities and all of a sudden I’m the one on the page. Exposed. It won’t read that way when someone reads it (unless they remember this blog post and put two and two together), but it reads that way to me.

And I’m thrilled. That little part of my soul is going to live in on with my character. I’m connected. I feel what the character feels and I know it to be authentic.

The challenge remains. I have to show a character as different, as the disability, even when I don’t feel disabled. I need to keep in mind what makes the character different from a hearing person. I’m excited. I can’t wait to share this with others and see what feedback I receive.

I’m finding my niche. It’s a part of who I am. It’s real. It’s true. It’s me. Time will tell how it transfers once off my laptop. I’m excited for the journey.

New Release: CLAIMING ATARIS by Ruby Knight

For the first time since I started this blog I skipped my Monday Post. The reason behind this skip is two-fold. One, I’m not feeling well. My muse is sick right along with me. I try and get her to work, she’s reaching for the remote control. And she hasn’t watched TV in years, so I know she’s really not feeling well (and neither am I, though my crazy quotient must be rising). The second reason is that I get to share with you a brand new release! My writer friend Ruby Knight has a new novel releasing today and I’m so excited to share it with you all.

Claiming Ataris Cover Final copy

Seventeen year old Quincy learns she is the heir to a royal kingdom, to claim her place in the Thalassic she must allow the ocean to claim her, as a mermaid.

Thalassa means: of the sea. Every single important moment in Quincy’s life has to do with water. She sits now at the bottom of the pool at her new school, drowning. Feeling like someone was holding her there.  She was about to die in the same way her parents did, three years ago.

She is about to gulp down the water, when two strong arms grab her and rip her from the water.  Her last fleeting thought before breaking the surface was something that would haunt her, “If I would have taken a breath underwater, it would have felt like coming home.”

 

Where you can grab your copy:

Barnes and Noble:
 
Claiming Ataris Playlist:
Some Nights: Fun

Kiss Me: Ed Sheeran

I Knew You Were Trouble: Taylor Swift

Vulnerable: Secondhand Serenade

We Are Young: Fun

Standard Lines: Dashboard Confessional

BlackBird: Sarah McLachlan

Dreaming With a Broken Heart: John Mayer

Never Say Never: Justin Bieber Acoustic

Everything Has Changed: Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran

Mumford and Sons: I Will Wait

Am I Breathing Underwater: Metric

Home: Phillip Phillips

Winter Solstice:

The Harlem Shake: Baauer

Thrift Shop: Macklemore

I’ll Stand By You: The Pretenders

Booty Work: Dorm Parties

The Way You Look Tonight: Michael Buble

 

ABOUT RUBY

Ruby wrote her first book during her senior year of college and hasn’t stopped writing since. She graduated with a degree in History and a minor in Psychology. When she isn’t manically writing stories on her laptop, she is coaching a high school dance team. You can find her hanging out with her tall, dark, and handsome husband or playing with her adorable little boy. She is from San Diego but was raised in Northern Utah. Her dad nicknamed her Rube at a young age and it always stuck. She currently lives in Utah under the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains. Ruby loves to read all things New Adult and Young Adult. She is a wannabe yogi and shamelessly indulges in reality TV. You might find her with a Diet Coke with Vanilla in it on most days, as this is what she considers to be water. Ruby continues to write more stories. Look for more titles by Ruby coming soon.

Twitter @rubewrites

The Sweet Side of Rejection

As a writer, rejection is both painful and helpful. It stings when our babies are not loved. The cuts can be deep and require copious amounts of ice cream and sulking for a few days to overcome. However, constructive feedback can change a story, make it better than previously imagined.

A few weeks back I was fortunate to receive a rare kind of feedback from an agent: a rejection coupled with a few lines letting me know where my story fell short, namely my opening needed a hook. I’m not going to lie, it stung. My heart dropped and I was about to begin a wallowing period when my muse jumped up, whacked me in the head, and yelled, “look closer.”

So I did. I looked closer at the constructive feedback, and as I read my muse whispered in my ear, “make Cam Deaf.”

Me: Whoa, we weren’t going to make a main character have a hearing loss, not yet. It’s something we’ll only be able to do a few times and we already have that story idea for a Hard of Hearing female.

Muse: But Cam should be Deaf. Think about it.

I thought about it. And even as I was still hesitant to make the leap, all the little details of the story shifted. Plot points became stronger. The character’s whole existence solidified in ways I couldn’t have predicted.

I did what any self-conscious writer does. I reached to my writer friends. Diversity is huge in the writing world right now and most were thrilled at the prospect of a Deaf male hero in a romance. A few others were leery, suggesting I make my female have a hearing loss instead.

Muse: No, no. She’s hearing. Cam is Deaf!

Or have him be Hard of Hearing, not Deaf.

Muse: Are you nuts? No! He’s Deaf!

I was starting to agree with my muse. I went back into my story, just to test the waters, and changed up my opening. I’ve since learned my opening was cliché: two characters meet across a bar, their eyes lock, magic! In making Cam Deaf my opening is still set at a bar, but now my female is staring at him, after already figuring out he couldn’t hear.

I shared my first page with my writer friends. The universal comment: Yes! It works! So I continued. This wasn’t a small change. This affected nearly every scene. Communication needed to be altered. Every time Cam heard something I had to remove it. Visual cues needed to be put in. And the amount of times my characters were speaking to one another without facing each other… (facepalm)

But… I’m in love. And I’m convinced; he was always supposed to be Deaf, not just his grandmother. The story is richer with the change, and I’m excited to put hearing loss front and center.

Now I wait for my readers to get back to me on the full revision. My fingers are crossed it works.

Since I already have my original first page hiding out on my blog, perhaps I’ll share my new first page:

I need to get laid, Nica thought as she stared into her amber cocktail. Deceitful little drink, really. It looked harmless, tasted fruity, and was packed full of potent alcohol. Potent enough that she lost her common sense halfway through the first glass.

She was now on her third, scanning the room for a man to prey on.

She sighed and pulled herself up from her gloom. The bar was packed for a Tuesday night. Waves of chatter encompassed her, creating a low hum in her ears. Across the narrow room, a young couple flirted close together, clanking glasses. He whispered in his date’s ear. She blushed then nodded. Must have been something dirty. The guy looked around the bar before asking the man next to him a question.

The second man turned, a sense of sorrow rolling off him. Hair the hue of rich caramel stuck out in different directions. He shook his head and pointed to his ear, before turning back to his drink.

One side of Nica’s mouth quirked and she bit her lip. Her fingers itched to smooth down his messy hair.

His broad shoulders stiffened and he turned. She tried to pull her gaze away before he caught her staring, except she didn’t move. Not an inch. Total disconnect from cranial activity to body movement. Damn fruity drinks. A pair of brown eyes locked with hers. Crap. She knew better than to be rude and stare. Quick, sign something, she willed her hands, anything.

Reverse Plotting: Plotting for Pantsters

In the writing world one is either a Plotter or a Pantster. A plotter, as the name suggests, plots out their story before writing. A Pantster, however, takes an idea and runs with it, often times not knowing where a scene is heading until the words are written.

I’m a Pantster. To the core. I love the concept of plotting, love what a Plotter can do with the knowledge of where their story is going. The ability to weave plot ideas throughout the entire novel, from the start, because said idea is known at the start. I. Just. Can’t. Do. It. I’ve tried but the fact of the matter is, I don’t know where my story is going until it’s written. So I can attempt to plot all I want, I need to write out the scenes first.

That’s not to say I don’t have some semblance of a plot in my head. I do. I sometimes have whole scenes written in my head. But it’s never real until it’s typed.

This doesn’t change my jealousy over Plotters.

I decided to give something I’m calling “Reverse Plotting” a try. I plotted out my story, after the first draft was finished. The end result looks like this:

WP_20140829_005

(And yes, those are my stuffed animals. I’m a big kid!)

That’s every scene in the novel, taped to my closet. At first glance: I write too many scenes! At second glance: I can see the entire novel at once! This is something I’ve often wanted to do, see everything. My memory is worth crap, so it’s hard to keep all-important details in mind as I read and write. It’s easier to keep those details as I scan through the note cards.

I already know several areas I need to fix in this novel. So I’ve gone through, marking up my note cards, putting down ideas for changes. I’m ready to shake things up.

And each time I walk by my closet I get a little happy writer vibe, and the urge to sit down with my laptop and work out the kinks in this novel.

It’s too early to say how this will help or hinder me. I stocked up on note cards, so I’m hoping for help over hinder! I will say, this is the only wallpaper I have in my home, and I think it’s mighty pretty

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go stare at it some more and get some things tweaked out…