I once was lost, but now I’m found….
These words of renewal from the old hymn can also describe people who have found a new way to live with their hearing loss, free from the tyranny of stigma and frustration, fear and isolation.
And when that happens, they often want to share what they’ve learned by paying it forward. Obviously, one doesn’t touch someone and say, “OK, now you’ve got it!” That’s just stupid.
Hearing loss is not contagious, but inspiration is.
The exhilaration of an AHA! moment – through meeting another person with the same issue, reading an inspiring article or book, or being introduced to an organization that serves people with hearing loss – is like a shower of relief and hope.
I’m not alone anymore. Someone understands me, somebody is listening to me. I now have words to express my feelings. I now know what I can do to live better with my hearing loss. Other people need to know this, too.
Almost every hearing loss advocate will tell you that their activism didn’t just happen – they didn’t wake up one morning and say, I’m going to help make things better for people like me. It’s usually a process, long for some, shorter for others. It starts with frustrations with hearing loss that are ongoing and self-limiting, especially when we don’t know how to improve listening situations.
Then, someone or something inspires you to not only deal with your own hearing loss differently, but to pass along what you’ve learned. It could be simple advocacy such as using social media to share inspiration or speak out on the need for more affordable hearing health care. You could fight for hearing loops in your church or at your bank. You might start a support group or become aligned with a national consumer organization in your country. Or you might just sit down and talk with someone else with hearing loss who needs to hear your message.
I became involved after attending my first meeting of people with hearing loss – their knowledge and activism lit a fire in me that’s still raging 25 years later. Now, when someone who has read my work or heard me speak tells me I’ve made a difference in their life, that I’ve inspired them to pay it forward, it’s still the best compliment I can ever receive.
I received my AHA! from inspirational friends and colleagues in the hearing loss space who share an un-quittable commitment to improving the lived experience for people with hearing loss. And when you receive your spark, it’s almost a duty to share it. There are many millions of people who have not yet heard the message that it is possible to live well with hearing loss. It starts with accepting the fundamental truths that we deserve to hear and be heard and that there is no shame in having hearing loss.
March 3rd is World Hearing Day, and the message this year is “Ear and hearing care for all!” We all have our bit to play in this because hearing health includes becoming more knowledge about our hearing loss, and developing the ability and skills to handle its emotions and barriers. Let’s pay that forward.
Thank you Gail for being such an unrelenting activist!!