In another lifetime I was a middle-school teacher. It only lasted for two years, but at that time I thought it might be my career.
I didn’t wear hearing aids then. Of the many difficulties I faced teaching classes of teenagers, I think some of them did have their root in my hearing loss.
First of all, I couldn’t understand soft-spoken students, and often had to make them repeat themselves. Uncomfortable for me, and also for them, especially if they were shy. The accompanying snickers from the rest of the class were certainly not a positive thing for the class atmosphere or my relationship with them.
I also had trouble when students made low-voiced comments or “talked back” in such a way that everybody could hear but me. It does make it difficult to ensure classroom rules are followed when so much can go on under your threshold of perception.
At the time, I didn’t realise how “bad” my hearing was (I knew I had some hearing loss). I didn’t realise that my colleagues heard that much more, and therefore had more information at hand to help them manage the class. Not hearing well clearly was not my only shortcoming in teaching teenagers, but I probably blamed myself more than I should have for the difficulties rooted in “not hearing things”.
Continue reading “The Perils of Hearing Less in the Classroom”
“Christina, how do you feel about Math and Science?”
My good friend, Ben, had asked me this question while I was freaking out about my then-boyfriend, Noah—a gorgeous, brilliant mechanical engineer who enjoyed springing questions about math and science on me without warning.
These questions, regardless of how good I felt, always made my heart race and waves of nausea hit me. Every time Noah would try to get me to guess answers to questions about the pressure that lifted planes, or a concept relates to calculus, I could not escape the feeling that I was being tested to see if I was “smart enough” to be his girlfriend.
Initially, I imagined I panicked at Noah’s questions because I believed, as a hearing-impaired artist with no money or college degree, that I was not good enough for someone like him. Ben, a therapist in-training, listened to my panic long enough to see that it had nothing to do with Noah. I knew Ben hit something much deeper when I could feel my whole body groan at the words “math and science.” Continue reading “Friends, Lovers, and Reclaiming STEM”
A complaint I’ve heard a few times lately in the hearing loss support groups I hang out in is that “full-hearing” people resist making the effort to talk to us in such a way that we can understand them. Or they do sometimes, but then forget. I feel a lot of frustration around this for some people, sometimes translated into judgements about the other “not caring” or “not paying attention” or “being offended”.
This reminds me a little, in a “through the looking-glass” way, of how we “less-hearing” people are sometimes accused of “not paying attention”, “not making an effort”, or “being distracted”.
Continue reading “How I “Get” People to Talk to me so I Can Understand Them”