I love reading the stories of people who have changed their stories. People who face adversity – health challenges, economic restrictions, social prejudices. Or who are simply bored or dissatisfied with their life direction and want to change their stars. Last week, I profiled Francisca Morneault Rouleau, a woman with hearing loss who become an audiologist. This week, Matthew Wren of Cambridge, Ontario talks about the direction his passions and hearing loss have taken him, including pursuing a dream of becoming a Hearing Instrument Specialist. GH
By Matthew Wren
At the age of 13 months, I was diagnosed with a bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and received my first pair of hearing aids. At the time, my mom was unfamiliar with deafness and asked the audiologist, “How long will he have to wear them?”
30 years later, I’m still wearing them (and will for the rest of my life) and have had both good and bad hearing loss experiences. When someone asks, “I have good news and bad news, which do you want first?”, I opt for the bad news to get it out of the way. I recall many “bad” incidents when people commented on my hearing aids or deafness.
It’s frustrating when people feel overly sympathetic simply because I am deaf. Once, I was studying for mid-terms in a university café, and a girl I’d never met before sat down opposite me. She asked what I was reading and I told her I was preparing for an upcoming test. After a few minutes of small talk, she looked at my hearing aids and abruptly asked “So, what happened?” Her question was unexpected and intrusive, and when I told her I’d been born with hearing loss, she gave me a sympathetic “awww”. This doesn’t happen often, but I find it offensive. But, confident in myself and my hearing loss, I politely stated I had to go back to my reading, took out my hearing aids and proceeded to read in my silent world.
But if there are bad incidents, there are also good ones where my hearing loss and wearing hearing aids have proved beneficial. For example, I have been able to use my hearing loss as an ice breaker to meet new people. One of my favorite things is that when people complain that something is too loud, I jokingly point to my hearing aids and say “You have nothing on me.” I live for moments like these because it’s always fun to see how people react and almost all the time, people laugh along. I can tell that a part of them feels guilty for laughing so I assure them that it’s okay to laugh and we laugh even more. When I was at Niagara College for Culinary Management, my group of friends did not treat me any differently because of my hearing loss. And because I was relaxed with them, I often used it as a punch line.
With two PhDs and a successful high school teacher in my nuclear family, education is a very important value and aspect in my life. After obtaining diplomas in Culinary Management from Niagara College and Pastry and Baking Art Management from George Brown College, I continued my education and obtained my Bachelor of Commerce Degree in Hotel and Food Administration from the University of Guelph. After 16 years of working in kitchens as a chef, I realized I wasn’t where I wanted to be and decided to make a career change, one that offered a quieter work environment and where I could interact with clients.
I decided to trade my chef’s knife for an otoscope. I am currently studying to be a Hearing Instrument Specialist at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario. Becoming a hearing loss professional will allow me to relate to clients because of our similar experiences and one day, I want to open a hearing clinic of my own. I love to help people and a clinical setting would allow me to fulfill this dream.
One of my hobbies is photography and I love capturing special moments with a camera. I’ve started a mini-business and already achieved one of my life goals by selling some of my photos. It was a pleasure to be able to donate the proceedings to VOICE for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, an organization that raises awareness about youth and hearing loss.
Living with a hearing loss will always be a challenge but as I mature and reflect, I realize that while my hearing loss has helped shape the person I am today, it doesn’t define who I am as a person. I’m happy to be celebrating two years of marriage and pursuing my photography and a new career.
I live every day by this motto: “Hear only the things you should hear- be deaf to others.” Ford Frick
Photos: Matthew Wren
Otoscope by Heine.