Picking a term to describe our hearing is fraught with implications.
The idea behind “hearing impaired” is that we are lesser human beings and must be fixed to function.
Those who suffer (dare I use “suffer”?) from mild to moderate hearing loss do not necessarily identify with the term deaf—a word that is historically loaded and also carries a distinction between capitalized and lowercase “d”. Uppercase “Deaf” reflects a community and a culture of identity, and carries pride similar to that of ethnic and religious groups. Lowercase “deaf” can reflect only severe to profound hearing loss, or hearing loss on the whole, depending who you ask.
Everybody who has met me knows that I have a very strong, yet unpredictable sense of style.
One day, I will wear a blue high-low dress that floats over the floor as I walk. My eyes are blue and silver, and my legs completely black from the illusion created by leggings and boots. The next, I might step out in hot pink skinny jeans and a Gap kids’ shirt with a starry-eyed cat, paired with black thigh-high boots. Cat wings will grace my eyes, and sometimes, I’ll wear heart-shaped glasses if I feel really psychedelic. In college, I actually received a prize for having the most colorful fashion in the entire school. Frequently, I am the fashion consult of my family and friends. The outlandish, erratic nature of my fashion is, ironically, a signature style.
My freedom to dress so outlandishly was acquired by the alienation that came from my hearing loss and chronic ear infections. Other middle school students frequently called me a “retard”, and harassed me in every class because of my hearing loss.
Christmas is a time for remembering old friends, but sometimes it can also bring back some sad or unpleasant memories. Seeing a former friend’s name in my address book reminded me of something that happened a few years ago…
After my sudden deafness in my ‘good ear’ in 2011, I could no longer use our telephone or my mobile for calls. Some friends were accommodating, converting our communication to text, email or social media but, sadly, others weren’t so accommodating.
It began with an ear infection and an early return from choir practice. My director sent me home after noticing that my energy levels were cut in half. Usually, I was center stage, singing at the top of my lungs and making a complete fool of myself—a change in pace from my self-conscious 12-year-old peers. When she saw me slink to the back, my director knew something was wrong. Upon revealing that I was sick, she wanted me to stay in bed.
“We can’t have you missing the concert in two weeks!”