It’s probably taken you awhile to get to where you are now.
Unless you have experienced a sudden hearing loss, it is likely your hearing loss has progressed over a period of years or even decades.
I can remember being retested in elementary school, but in those days if you could function well enough, no action was taken. If I think back, there are specific events I can remember, even though I didn’t give much thought to them back then.
For instance, I was placed in the front row eyeballing the teacher, but when she faced the blackboard I had trouble keeping up with what she was saying. Also, I could never make out the audio in those documentaries we watched in the auditorium. What I remember most though, is the day in second grade that I was facing down and writing something and apparently the teacher was calling my name, but I did not hear her. Finally, she shouted my name so loud I jumped out of my seat. That’s what I remember. Why? Because I heard the class laugh.
I didn’t get my first hearing aid until I was 32 years old.
You will grieve the loss of this sense
There are different types of grief. The loss of a human, a dog, a job, a sense of community or even your younger self. Whether it is conscious or masked by depression or anxiety, hearing loss is a tremendous loss. Sound connects us to the world around us.
You will feel a disconnect
When hearing loss progresses, it is common to feel a sense of disconnect. What were the things you enjoyed most in the past? Plays? Movies? Sporting events? Conversation with family? These are events and situations we often enjoy with family and friends. The good news is that in 2020 assistive technology allows us to still enjoy these events or once again.
It didn’t just happen to you, it happened to those around you too
Hearing loss is stressful. Not just for you, but for those you are closest to. We can help others by doing our best to remain reachable. For instance, if you wear hearing aids or cochlear implants, you need to wear them in order to do your part in making yourself available for conversation.
Life has changed for you, but it has also changed for those around you. Be a team player.
Things are likely to change in the workplace
Having trouble hearing on the phone? Need people to face you when they speak? Are people telling you that you are talking too loud? Missing important chunks of information in meetings? Have a co-worker or superior that has no patience with writing things down or repeating things? Ever been at a meeting and the speaker asks, “No one needs for me to use the microphone do they? Can you all hear me?” Duhhhhh! Are you bluffing and pretending to hear when you are struggling? Been there and done that? It’s certainly counterproductive to bluff.
Sometimes people say and do stupid things
Yup. Stupid and hurtful things. Stereotypical assumptions. Ridiculous jokes about hearing loss that aren’t even funny. But most of the stupid things people say are not meant to be unkind. We need to remember that. I find that often people don’t know how to react. If I tell the checker in the supermarket that I have a hearing loss and need for he or she to speak more slowly, I get an apology. None is necessary. But I find a lot of people just don’t know what works, and then they get so anxious they start speaking fast again.
You will need to educate yourself regarding hearing instruments and technology
There are so many wonderful hearing instruments and assistive devices on the market today, from hearing aids to cochlear implants and other devices that really work well. One great place to start is by visiting www.hearingloss.org. There is a wealth of information on just about every aspect of hearing loss you can think of.
Find a mentor
The year was 1989. I had already been wearing my first hearing aid for a decade. I knew no one my age who experienced hearing loss, and all I got from people around me was stories about someone’s grandma and her negative experience with whistling or how she would put it in a drawer and never use it. Then I joined the Westchester Chapter of Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, Inc. (SHHH) now known as Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). This is when I met Edith Shapiro. She became my mentor and my friend. She and her family narrowly escaped Germany during the Holocaust. She was a survivor, and she taught me how to be a survivor and to find acceptance and solutions to slowly going deaf.
Find a tribe
I believe the year was 1990, and I joined some new friends with hearing loss and headed out to San Diego for my first-ever hearing loss convention. It is hard to explain the feeling of awe I felt being in a room with approximately 1,000 people all with different levels of hearing loss. I looked around and felt a lump in my throat. A year earlier I knew no one, now I felt the presence of an entire community of people just like me.
Be your own advocate
Let the world hear your voice. Advocate for yourself at home, in the workplace and in every area of your life that requires communication. Gently educate people in your life about hearing loss. Familiarize yourself with ADA law. Get political. Make hearing loss and all persons with disabilities an important part of your voting decisions.
Most of all, get your hearing checked, take advantage of the many choices and devices that are available in 2020!
The truth is, in the end, it is up to you to make the most of these truths.
*The points in this blog are strictly my opinion from personal experience and observation*