I write a lot about hearing loss on my blog, in many cases speaking from an established position. Meaning I’ve had a hearing loss all my life. I’ve connected with others with a hearing loss. I’ve taken classes and been able to shift my identity to match my ears.
Others are not this way. I didn’t start out this way.
So let’s boil it back to basics, shall we? I started off with the label “hearing impaired.” I used this label for nearly two decades. I never felt impaired. I never felt handicapped. I felt different. My hearing loss only accentuated those awkward teenage years. I didn’t have peers that were like me, but I did have some peers who accepted me.
Like and accept are two different things. Spend any time in diversity discussions and you’ll learn this quickly.
I’m told that as a young child I refused to meet with another little girl with hearing loss and hearing aids. I never hid my ears but I did get teased and picked on for them. Granted, I’m the type of person who would have gotten teased and picked on regardless, so we can call that a gray area.
As a freshman in high school, I wrote myself a letter. In this letter I asked my future self if there were any advances in hearing loss and went on about how wonderful it would be not to have a hearing loss anymore.
By the time I read this letter, I was in college, learning ASL, and had adopted the label “hard of hearing.” I didn’t recognize the words as my own. I was completely knocked off my chair. I hadn’t seen myself change, hadn’t remembered I used to feel that way. The transition into being comfortable with my ears happened quickly and naturally. Yet I am grateful for that letter and for the chance to acknowledge the change I went through.
In college I met others with hearing loss. I took an ASL class with another student who is hard of hearing. We’re still friends and I had a conversation with her before typing this. I also spent my first college party sitting in the corner talking with someone who was hard of hearing. I will never forget this experience, even if I have lost touch with this friend. It was the first time I could talk to someone who understood what it was like to have a hearing loss, to wear hearing aids. There was a connection there and will always be a connection there that others simply cannot have.
Respect and acceptance are important. But they do not come with shared experiences.
I went on to work with Deaf and Hard of Hearing people (capitalized to denote cultural). My wedding party consisted of a Late Deafened and Deaf attendants. Women I would not have known without my ears and my journey.
I’m glad I’m no longer uncomfortable with my ears. Because of my journey, because of who I am, I am an open book as far as my ears are concerned. I’ll talk about anything and have done presentations on hearing loss, oftentimes removing my own hearing aids for demonstration. It’s one of the things I miss about my former job.
I write about hearing loss to educate, to share these parts of myself. I write about hearing loss to reach out to others who may not have had a chance to interact with peers. I write about hearing loss because it’s my identity.
Use the comments section below to ask questions, to interact. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so there, click on the contact tab to reach out to me. Time permitting, I’m happy to talk about hearing loss from a peer’s point of view.