Home » General » I’m Not Disabled—And Neither Is My Character

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.

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