I once was lost, but now I’m found….
The words of the old hymn, while written about faith, also talk of renewal, which describes the emotions of people who have been freed from fear or pain or frustration.
Or from the isolation of hearing loss.
Paying “hearing loss” forward doesn’t mean that you pass it on; you don’t touch someone and say, “OK, now you’ve got it!” That’s just stupid.
Hearing loss is not contagious – but inspiration is.
When it happens, 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 a huge bodywash 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 specific things I can do to live better with my hearing loss. I want to do the same for others.
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 work to make things better for people like me. It’s usually a process, long for some, shorter for others. It can start with frustrations with hearing loss that are ongoing and self-limiting. Then, someone or something inspires you to not only change your hearing loss life, but to pay it forward to someone else who needs it (and may not know it). It could be simple bits of advocacy by 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.
I became involved after attending my first meeting of people with hearing loss – their startling acceptance and activism lit a fire in me that’s still raging 20 years later. Now I hear from people who have read writings or heard me speak; they say that I have inspired them to change and pass it on. This is still the best compliment I can ever receive.
Shari Eberts, renowned blogger on hearing loss, says her children, who may inherit her genetic hearing loss, provided the catalyst to do more. “I was struggling with stigma about my hearing loss and saw them watching me hide it and pretend to hear things. I realized I needed to set a better example.” Conversely, Chris Sutton, National Executive Director of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association (CHHA), says that what spurred him was “watching my parents be strong advocates for me to ensure I didn’t face barriers and then assuming that role myself.”
For Boston advocate Peggy Ellertsen, the moment happened when she walked into the hotel and the following four days at her first Hearing Loss Association of America convention. For Myrtle Barrett, CHHA’s president, it took just one person to change her life, a life that became devoted to hearing loss issues.
Any of us who have received that AHA! Moment, have the experience and knowledge to pay it forward, letting others know there’s a better way. It can be life-changing for them. For you it’s the feel-good deed that keeps on giving.