There are very few places in life where I actively feel my disability. With an Audeo V riding in my right ear, amplifying the world’s sounds, I can almost feel “normal” when I am around other people. Conversation has its difficulties, but usually most people are accommodating in a large crowd. Often, the participants will even say “Oh, no one can hear in a crowd like this anyway.” We all laugh and enjoy the evening, mostly filled with jokes, and the occasional drink.
One place where I consistently feel my hearing loss, however, is when my dad asks if I want to take a ride on the boat. Any time I go near water, I have to leave my hearing aid at home. Most hearing aids are not water proof, and my model is incredibly sensitive to even the slightest drop of moisture. At the beach, I can still pose as “normal” because I spend so much time body surfing over the waves until I am carried back to shore.
In the hull of a Sunfish, however, I cannot pretend my loss does not exist because I have no hearing aid to help me sail across the sea. As I put on my life vest and help my dad take the boat into the water, however, the dizziness accompanying my loss is accompanied by embarrassment. The only other children who sail with their parents are ones who do not yet know how to sail themselves. By the time they are twelve, they can man Optis and Sunfish by themselves.
Everyone else my age has been sailing on their own for years. Seeing as I am one of the few who still sails with a parent, I cannot help but feel ashamed, even when I know I should not. At this point in my life, I have opted not to sail altogether. Continue reading “Missing the Boat”
Since my eighth birthday, I had been waiting for the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I had become hopelessly addicted to the series after receiving Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as a birthday gift. Initially, my mother read them to my brother, Doug, and me as bedtime stories. As I got older and my reading skills improved, I took each new book for myself and read it in a matter of days.
Having gone through the series so quickly, I was gunning my engine to read the last book and see how it ends. In spite of the sticky July heat, I came to Borders dressed in my “Gryffindor Girl” outfit: a white blouse with a black and red kilt and a Gryffindor tie I stole from Doug’s closet.
Mom had originally reserved one copy for the entire family, and through our wait to pick it up, she was yelling at me about spoiling the book. While Mom and Doug take months to finish a single book, I can easily read one in a matter of days—weeks, if I am feeling slow. For the previous two sequels, I had accidentally spoiled the books for both of them by crying over important character deaths. Continue reading “Harry Potter and the Surprise Tympanoplasty”
Wearing hearing aids is as natural to me as wearing clothes. I was born hearing impaired and as far as I can remember I always had hearing aids; they were just an extension of my body. In my early kindergarten years it was a box I had to carry on my chest. Ear plugs were connected to it with long cables. In hot weather, this box became quite uncomfortable to wear. Surprisingly the amount of sweat pooling underneath it never caused it to short-circuit. Fortunately, as soon as I hit elementary school age, I was given behind-the-ear hearing aids. Those were a huge improvement and I have been wearing those types of hearing aids up until a few months ago.
My hearing loss has sadly been deteriorating over the years, up to a point where it was getting really hard to get the most out of a hearing aid. I had heard about cochlear implants earlier on, but back then I found them to be a rough technical solution. Like all technological inventions, however, cochlear implant technology is being continuously refined as time goes by.
As any technology has its limits, choosing to get a cochlear implant remained a hard decision. I have a good friend who got an implant a year ago and is showing remarkable performance, but that does not mean the same will occur with me or with anyone else.
The benefits of a cochlear implant vary greatly per person. It depends on your hearing history, your age, your language capabilities, your own personal investment, your social environment, and so forth. People who have lost hearing suddenly will profit more from a cochlear implant compared to those who were born with hearing difficulties. Deaf children with an implant will do better than deaf adults who just had a cochlear implant. If you are in an environment where sign language is the dominating communication tool, having a cochlear implant might provide some way to discern sounds, but will probably not improve oral communication. Continue reading “From A Hearing Aid To A Cochlear Implant”
This May marks 45 years since Let it Be, the Beatles’ last album, was released. My parents, who were 11 and 21 at the time, remember the album as the tragic marker of the Beatles’ downfall. Dad lost his taste for the Beatles after they shed their mop tops, but he was still saddened to see them break up. To this day, Mom cannot watch the film version of Let it Be without crying because the fights between John and Paul, along with George and Ringo’s frustration, were nothing short of painful.
As a fan known by her community as a Beatlemaniac, I view Let it Be as the heart-rendering last words of my favorite band. As a hard of hearing person, however, I cannot see Let it Be as anything other than the safety blanket that let me release my feelings about my hearing loss. Continue reading “Let it Be: A Beatlemaniac’s Beacon Through Hearing Loss”
For the past ten years, I believed I knew everything there was to know about making difficult decisions. In my mind’s eye, the hardest decision I had ever made was to stop wearing bilateral hearing aids and opt for years of hearing restoration surgery.
After the traumatic experience of being intubated awake, returning to the operating room by choice felt nothing short of insane. Yet, I knew enough to understand that I would not be able to have the life I desired without repairing my eardrums. I was already ambitious as a pre-teen, with a list of lofty dreams including attending a top college, reaching the world with music and writing, learning at least five languages, and seeing as many countries as I possibly could.
All of these goals felt heavily dependent on hearing for their execution. Though I feared surgery more than anything else on the planet, I made the decision to go for it in hopes of having the hearing necessary to make my dreams come true. Continue reading “Breaking the Surgery Mindset”
It was 6 A.M. on Christmas morning. My brother, Doug, and I had woken up much earlier, but our parents said, “Don’t wake us up before six.” Each minute seemed to drag before, finally, we could spring into our parents’ bed shouting, “WAKE UP! IT’S CHRISTMAS!”
Both of them rolled under the covers, in hopes of grabbing a few more seconds of sleep. My dad cried, “Spirit! Haunt me no more!”, before letting my brother and me climb into bed. It was very easy to fit two parents, a four-year-old boy, a six-year-old girl, and a two-year-old cat under the same sheets. We were all warm, snug, and full of Christmas cheer. Inevitably, my Dad would always ask the same question, and it would always break my heart.
“Did you hear Santa last night?” My dad asked.
“Sure did!” Doug replied.
“Oh…yeah…me too…” I stammered, faking a smile.
Continue reading “The Day I Heard Santa Claus”
There are very few things about which I feel shame. Shame: “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong and foolish behavior”. Note this: the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
However, we are often made to feel shame over the silliest things. Some people are made to feel ashamed because their clothes are “so last season”, or they are unable to have a certain amount of income. Many of us who read and write for Open Ears have had at least one experience with shame over hearing loss. But where is the “wrong and foolish behavior” in having ears that do not function as we believe they should? This ill-placed experience of shame causes us to forget what is truly wrong and foolish behavior, which we should justly feel ashamed of.
How do I know what it’s like to carry a wrong idea of shame? At age 16, I learned what shame really was by becoming a bully.
Continue reading “Parker: The Boy Who Taught Me About Shame”
If you had asked me how I envisioned my life on August 24th, 2004, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Heck, I wouldn’t have been able to say anything because of the intubation scrapes on my throat and the tight bandaging around my head. On that date, I had undergone my first tympanoplasty to repair my left eardrum and restore my hearing. With the optimistic outcome my surgeon had promised, I knew my life would drastically improve once I had “perfect hearing” in at least one ear. 10 years later, I looked in a mirror and realized the greatest changes, though made possible by my surgery, were more important than restored hearing.
When I had the surgery, I was twelve years old, trying to find new direction and scared out of my mind of the future. After getting rid of my punk rock spikes and (most of) my clothes from Hot Topic, my wardrobe was in recovery from being my rage outlet at my hearing loss. Underneath my bandages, my hair was short from chopping it off after a decade of ear infections. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to be a singer or veterinarian—two careers that demanded normal hearing for very different reasons. My “only hope” of romance was writing obsessively to Tom Felton because middle school boys brutally teased me for having hearing aids. Worst of all, I was plunged into a sea of agony, packing gel, and tinnitus with no guarantee of restoring my eardrum.
Continue reading “Now and Then: 10 Years with an Eardrum”
It’s easy to pretend that I am just like everybody else until someone blurts out a subtle, but painful statement.
“But you look so normal!”
Those words were uttered to me in the library after another student lost her temper because I could not hear her whispers. My response to her irritation was to pull out my hearing aid, wave it in her face, and say, “I’m sorry, I’m hard of hearing. Could you repeat that?”
Continue reading “But You Look So Normal”