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.