ReDeafined.. Fitting In and Living Between Two Different Worlds

“Not hearing enough but not deaf enough”- stuck between two worlds…

It’s been about 3 years ago I had my hearing re-tested and was told I needed hearing aids. Primarily for my left ear which showed the most dramatic hearing loss, but my right ear wasn’t hearing so great either. They don’t know what the cause for the loss is. Maybe due to a virus I had or potentially due to my auto-immune issues. The one thing they do know now, it that it is getting worse.

When I was 8 years old I had my tonsils and adenoids removed and tubes put into my ears. I don’t know if it was to help prevent ear infections, like they do now, or for whatever reason. I do remember one of the tubes didn’t come out on it’s own and when I was laying on the table in the doctors office I stared at the big E.N.T. on the door, and made up my own words to what those letters stood for. He walked in the room in his long white lab coat and pulled at the tube in my ear, it took several attempts. I thought it wasn’t supposed to hurt. It hurt. At that time I was most scared that I would lose my hearing, they assured me that wouldn’t happen. Not saying that this caused my current situation because I highly doubt it did, but just a little foresight into my future.

I remember someone once saying, “You talk like you have a handful of shit in your mouth.” because I mumbled, unable to hear how loud I was talking. Through my high school years people would tell me I needed to speak louder. In my head, I was speaking louder.

Fast forward a few years later. I decided I was going to join the Air Force and use that as my means to pay for college. It was during the physical they pulled my out of the line up and took me in to another room stating I failed their hearing test. Perhaps it was just that my ears needed to be cleaned out? They took me to a doctor and had my ears cleaned and brought me back for retesting. Once again, Failed. I was told the only way I could get a waiver to enlist would be if the doctor wrote a statement saying my hearing wouldn’t get worse. Of course, my doctor wouldn’t say that, not to them, not to me, and certainly not in writing to the Government. Unfortunately, my hearing got worse.

At this latest appointment, it was confirmed. They changed the settings on my one hearing aid, they stated again that they recommended I get a second for my right ear. “moderate hearing loss to lower tones”. I remember when I first got my hearing aid and how amazed I was at the sound of my doctor’s high heels clicking across the floor. I watched her feet and then looked up to see her smiling. Outside her office the birds sang SO LOUDLY! Then there was the time Scott, my husband and I were driving down the road with the windows open, and I asked him, “What’s that sound?” “You mean the frogs?” “Those are frogs?!” I said with delight. You probably wouldn’t understand that if the sounds of frogs to you are no big deal. But to me.. AWESOME!!

frog

I’m going to be honest here and tell you, there are times when I just wish I couldn’t hear anything rather than hearing sound but not being able to make out the words people are saying. But then I think of the things I CAN hear. Just sometimes it gets frustrating for me with saying, “what? I didn’t hear you.” and I know it’s frustrating to my family. Just this morning with my daughter I said, “Oh, there you are! Did you hear me calling you?” She said,”Yes, I only said ‘what’ a hundred times.”

In my everyday life when I didn’t have my hearing aid, I would mimic the facial expressions others did so they wouldn’t know I couldn’t hear what they said. Laugh when they laughed, smiled when they smiled, or nod my head as if I could hear them. Is that wrong of me to do? I don’t think of it as “lying” just preventing embarrassment or perhaps avoid fear of being left out of conversation and connection with others if they knew, getting a “never mind” in return. Once someone I worked with was speaking to me and I couldn’t hear what they were saying. Jokingly they acted as if they were doing sign language and spoke very slowly to me. They didn’t know about my hearing loss. They meant no harm, I know that. But I just wanted to tell them that I really couldn’t hear them. Another time, someone asked me what kind of Bluetooth device I was wearing…it was my hearing aid.

As I face the fact that I am deaf in my left ear (without the help of my hearing aid), and I am also losing my hearing in my right ear, several things go through my mind. The most prominent was a car accident I was involved in when I was a teenager. It was a bad car accident in the mountains of Utah. They said we were lucky. They said we should have gone right over the guard rail, down the mountain to the railroad tracks far below. But we didn’t, and they don’t know why. In this car accident, I had smashed my head on the right hand side, knocking myself unconscious. When I came to and the paramedics were there doing their evaluation. “What is your name?” I couldn’t remember. I told them I didn’t know but if they said it, I would know what it was. “What year is it?” Again, the same response, “I don’t know.” Do you know what his name is?” They pointed to the young man I was on a date with, ” I don’t know. But if you say it I will know it.” Then my sight began to darken. I said, “Something is wrong. I can’t see anything.” They reassured me, by telling me they were right there and that we would be moving shortly to get to to the hospital. My sight came back in but then as I watched them, I observed… I couldn’t hear what they were saying and I began to panic. “What are you saying?! I can’t hear what you are saying! Do I sound funny? My S’s… Sssssssss, my S’s sound funny! Do you hear me?!”

utah guard rail

This car accident had more than a huge impact in my life than I would have ever thought at the time. It was when I decided I was going to become a Firefighter/EMT/Paramedic, it was also when I decided if I was going to lose my  sight, my short term memory, or my hearing… I would least want to lose my hearing. I justified this with even when I lost my sight, I could still hear what others were doing, what they were saying, the sounds and tones of their voices were comforting. It was with the loss of my hearing when they were attempting to communicate with me and I couldn’t understand them.. it scared me, made me feel uncomfortable, and …alone. How ironic is it that I became a firefighter/emt and “lost” that, and I am slowly losing my hearing as well. The thought makes me chuckle in a sad sort of way. Though I realize it isn’t the end of the world now, is it. Not even close!

As I continue to develop my skills as a Personal Trainer business owner to help people with their health and fitness, and my skills as a Professional Speaker to help others get through tough times in their lives, I seek out ways I could also use this hearing loss to help others. I began to research and find out what I could do and I ran across this article. Nothing to do with how I could help people with the exception of helping others to understand how it feels, or at least how I feel, but one part of this really hit home, 

Deaf people communicate in a variety of ways, so you shouldn’t assume that all of us know sign language or can lip-read. On any given day, I use speech, sign language, and written English to communicate. I choose to speak because it makes things easier for you, the hearing person, who usually will not have the patience to converse with me otherwise. That said, I absolutely hate it when people come out with a variant of the compliment, “Oh, but you speak so well!” The problem with this statement is twofold. First, it’s condescending. I don’t want to be praised for acquiescing to society’s idea of how I should speak or sound. 

I do not know sign language. My daughter has suggested we take a sign language class together and I considered it for a while but decided against it for communication purposes with her, but, perhaps it would help in communicating with others? This is where the “not hearing enough but not deaf enough comes into play”. Is this something I really NEED to do to fit in to both worlds? Seeing as I think I am doing pretty okay with what I know and can do right now, I don’t think so. The only thing I can ask from both worlds is to be patient and that goes for anyone whom is deaf, hearing, or who speaks a different language from someone else. Just be patient because we all live in this world together and I understand how frustrating it can be trying to communicate with someone who communicates differently than you do.

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