I was diagnosed with a “mild” hearing loss around the age of four. The main signs my mom saw was me not repeating my words correctly for instance, I would say “nake” instead of “snake” because I didn’t hear the ’s’, I would turn the Saturday morning cartoons really loud, and also she thought that I was simply ignoring her when she was standing beside me talking to me, but I wasn’t, I really didn’t hear her.
People ask me, what caused me to have a hearing loss. It’s a nerve deficiency, I was born with it, it’s not Maybelline.
My mom took me to an audiologist and the diagnoses was done, the hearing aide molds were made and the lifetime of “dealing with this” started.
That was in 1988, I was 4.
My mom said that my dad cried when we found out that I had a loss, I told her that he cried not because I couldn’t hear the rain coming down or a car coming up the street, but because of the additional financial burden that I just gave them. It’s true, hearing aides are not cheap and are not covered by insurance (but glasses are?). My mom worked her ass off and sought every resource known possible to man to help cover my hearing aides, I was never without. She made magic happen.
Anyway, in 1988 kids didn’t wear hearing aides, it was such a rarity, the only people wearing hearing aides were your grandparents. I was the only kid in my school from Junior Kindergarten (1988) to 8th grade (1998) to wear hearing aides.
OK, I lied, I didn’t actually wear them because you see, I was always getting asked, “what are those things in your ears” or being avoided like how we’re practicing social distancing these days, and being a kid in 1988, you didn’t want to be seen as different (did I mention that I was also the only multiracial girl in my school and the tallest kid in class too just to make things stand out more) anyway, I would take them out put them in my pocket, lose them, and forget that I ever had them. Lose and forget a thousand dollars worth of technology.
I remember one time, I came home from school and my mom asked me “where are your hearing aides?” I reached into my pocket and gone. Nothing. Nada. Disappeared like magic before my eyes. She was furious, she asked me when and where I took them out — which were at the park because it was hot, I was sweating and water can’t get into the hearing aides. After I died and came back, my mother said “get in the car” and as we drove in her sexy blue 1984 Audi, she kept telling me how important those hearing aides were, how much they cost, and why I should be more careful with them — honestly, all I heard was Whitney Houston singing on the radio. We finally reached the park where we searched every grain of sand until we found my hearing aides, no joke. And they still worked. For the record, let’s just say this was not the last time something like this happened, I was really hardheaded and stubborn. Still am, but today, at least I wear my hearing aides.
From the 4–6th grade we experimented with the auditory trainer — this was some bulky, eye sore, annoying AF dual ear piece and headset. Looked like an outdated Sony Walkman slash portable 8-track (do kids even know what those are anymore?), I had my set with the custom mold ear pieces and my teacher had her set with the news reporter wire clipped on her shirt.
I hated it.
It brought so much attention to me and on top of it, if a student started talking to me, I couldn’t hear them! The fun part was when the teacher left the room and kept the headset on, I heard every conversation she had with other teachers.
To be on the safe side and to make sure I wasn’t missing anything in class, my mother consulted me to have an IEP (Independent Educational Program) that assigned me a not only speech classes every day until the 8th grade, but also a tutor — Mrs. Valenzula was her name, she was one hell of a woman. She taught me how to actually pay attention in class, ask questions, and take notes. She made me read aloud to her to make sure I was pronouncing my words right and then quizzing me on what I just read to boost my reading comprehension.
My speech classes were state of the art, innovative; I would wear my hearing aides, my speech therapist would say a word without me allowing to read her lips and tell me to repeat it back to her while looking into a mirror. Genius. I told you state-of-the-art. This helped more than anything in the world at that time because she taught me to actually listen to people and not just to hear them. She also pointed out something very obvious back in the day, she said “when you’re on the phone, you can’t read people’s lips”.
So let’s fast forward to 1998 — eight grade summer. My IEP team asked me if I wanted to continue with speech classes & private tutor for high school, I don’t know what gave me the courage to say “no” but I did because I knew that I couldn’t rely on these people forever, I had to start taking the initiative to work harder, pay better attention in school, read as much as I could, if I wanted to make it in high school, in college and ultimately in life.
In high school, it was 100% up to me. I disciplined myself to wearing my hearing aides, every single day — and I did. No speech classes, no tutor. I made it — I did drama/theater and even show choir. My hearing loss and my hearing aides didn’t stop me from doing what I wanted to do. I think this is an extremely crucial and important message to anyone with any sort of “disability” — while we may be challenged, we’re not stupid and our handicap is only a ‘handicap’ if you look at it that way.
I’ve worn two types of hearing aides in my life; one BTE which stands for behind the ear, the other in ITE, in the ear. While they are both hearing aides, depending on one’s loss, one is actually better than the other. I wore the ITE from high school until 2010, this was most likely the best pair I’ve ever had. I currently am wearing ITE which are AMAZING thanks to technology; I do plan to resorting back to ITE in a few years.
With the BTE I can’t talk on the phone because the earpiece of a landline phone acts like a mic getting too close to the speaker (feedback) and cell phones just doesn’t cut it — so I literally have to take my hearing aides OUT to talk on the phone. Not a problem, because at least the sound is being projected directly into my ear.
Also, hearing aides are truly customized and programmed to the person wearing them. You may have seen ADs on TV about digital amplifiers; while they do help, they are not hearing aides — they only make things louder — things don’t have to be louder for a hearing impaired person to hear. Our hearing loss is also based on sounds, tones and pitches — I actually hearing better at a raging SKA concert with the stereo set blasting and can have a thorough conversation with someone while my rocker chick friends can’t hear (strange isn’t it) again, tones & pitches not volume.
Please note that the Cochlear Hearing Implant is completely different than a regular hearing aide.
Cochlear implants provide an effective alternative to hearing aids because they don’t use amplification. Instead, they bypass the damaged part of the ear and use electrical stimulation to enable you to hear. — www.advancedbionics.com
TO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION:
1. Hearing aides do not solve everything. So when a hearing impaired person who’s actually wearing their hearing aides still has a hard time understanding you, just simply repeat yourself… and let me make something very clear; you do not have to yell. Yelling isn’t going to solve anything, because the fact is, I indeed HEARD you — the problem is pitches, tones, and the way you pronounce your words vary from person to person so sometimes its hard to UNDERSTAND, to make out everything that you’re saying.
2. Not everyone who’s hearing impaired knows sign language and not everyone who’s hearing impaired wants to learn sign language. Always ask before signing, don’t assume.
3. Don’t ever tell someone with a hearing loss to put their hearing aides in if they are out. Rude.
I hope you enjoyed reading this and have a better understanding of what it’s like to be hearing impaired and not deaf because, you don’t have to yell.