Reframing Your Hearing Loss Narrative (by Karina Cotran)

Gael Hannan
March 20, 2023

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty damn critical about myself. I think everyone is, to a certain extent, but I’ve noticed a pattern where folks with disabilities are more self-critical than folks without any disabilities. It’s almost like we put ourselves up to a higher standard because we don’t meet society’s typical standards.

Society doesn’t explicitly say we don’t meet their standards (at least not anymore), but there are always some implications out there that folks with disabilities need to do more to overcompensate for ‘whatever is missing’.

In a previous blog post, I spoke about learning from the past, and living in the present – and how the past can’t be changed, but what you take from it can. Whenever I looked back into my past, and saw how I felt about my hearing loss, I would always cringe.

I held on to a lot of shame around my hearing loss, and always overcompensated to make up for the fact that my hearing wasn’t that great. On the surface, this might not seem like a terrible thing – I always went above and beyond when I could, and that could be interpreted as my being ambitious and striving for the best.

However, if you dig a little deeper beneath the surface…this isn’t a healthy attitude to have. Being ambitious and striving for the best is great, but my reason for doing that was not. I was trying to match the ideals of society by overextending myself.

I worked hard to become the best and most ideal version that people wanted to see and ended up losing myself along the way. Trying to be someone’s ideal isn’t worth losing yourself. I didn’t know who I wanted to be without desiring the input of someone to validate that I was being the “right” kind of person.

That was a major lesson I took away when I reflected on my past. I learned that I had to put myself first, and to realize what I wanted for ME, and not for anyone else’s version of me. The question was, how do I do that? How do I set myself up for success so that in the future, when I look back at this very moment – I feel pride, and not shame?

Something had to shift. I had to learn to let go of the shame towards my hearing loss, and work on what I wanted to do most in this moment to become the person I wanted to be, and NOT the ideal version of what I should be according to society.

I wanted to look towards the future with excitement – with the promise of a new perspective and a life lived on my terms, while loving myself all the while.

One of the ways I’ve started actively working on this is doing some reflective journaling.

I asked myself:

  • How does society view people with disabilities?
  • How do my friends and family view people with disabilities?
  • How do I view people with disabilities?
  • How do I want to view myself and my relationship with hearing loss?
  • What am I doing now that doesn’t reflect how I want to view myself? What are the steps I need to take to change that?

I had to write down what I thought were people’s views/ideals on people with disabilities and needed to match it with my own to see where I was supporting the views of others vs. my own views.

One example that came up for me is dancing – my hearing loss made it difficult to hear music when I was younger, and it led me to shy away from listening and dancing to music. I told myself I couldn’t dance because of my hearing loss. That led me to feeling some resentment against my hearing loss. It wasn’t until after I did my journaling exercise that I realized my hearing loss isn’t stopping me…I was. So, I reframed the narrative – and now I’m starting dance lessons this week!

It might seem like a simple solution but sitting down and reflecting on these things made me slow down and clearly see what views were my own vs. other people’s. I also wrote down the actionable steps I needed to take to view myself with a bit more grace and love.

What are some of the ways you can reframe your own narrative to let go of any shame related to your hearing loss or disability?

Karina Cotran is a passionate advocate for accessibility. She is the author of Hearing Differently – Growing Up With a Cochlear Implant.  Follow her on Instagram on @hearingdifferently.

Leave a Reply