If someone asked me today who I am, one of my answers would be: I am a person on a long journey with hearing loss, who is still learning things along the way.
And most of what I now know, came after the age of 40. Meeting other people like me for the first time, I started to morph from “a hard of hearing person with a hearing aid” into “I’m have hearing loss and I use hearing aids and a cochlear implant”.
Those two descriptions sound almost the same, but to me, they are very different. Before the changing point, I lived with hearing loss the best way I knew how, which was simply to wear my hearing aid every day. I had no specialized teachers, no audiological help beyond hearing aids, and absolute zero peer support. After the change point, although I didn’t need the teachers, I blossomed with the knowledge that I was owning this hearing loss. I had grabbed the hands of other people who pulled me up onto the hearing loss podium where they were living a life that I had not even known was possible.
I’ve never looked back.
Over time, I’ve adopted many new strategies, but the most important step was accepting my hearing loss and with that, throwing off any shame I had ever felt for bumbling along with hearing loss. The next most important was taking responsibility for how well I communicated and for helping those who communicated with me to improve their game.
Benefits of Owning It!
- I was able to shift from a victim mentality to a proactive mindset.
- I was more aware of hearing-related stress and the need to reduce it for better overall health.
- My family and friends, who had always been good communicators, became even better – and they were happy to see me happier.
- I learned to forgive myself when I fell into old traps of bluffing and other bad communication habits.
- I stopped seeing technology as something scary that I didn’t understand. I now see it as an amazing gift that raises my hearing and understanding to new levels. (I still don’t understand it, but that’s OK because other people do.)
You might be thinking of all the barriers you have to jump over before you can even think of saying “I’ve GOT this!” The little things like unrealistic goals, a negative self-view, bad listening habits, chronic bluffing (pretending we understand, when we don’t) and shyness about asking for what we need.
The way I hear it, there’s just one big barrier we have to face, and that’s our belief that we don’t have the right to hear better. Remove that block! Ignite your desire and willingness to learn how to communicate better! Once you’ve got the attitude and are feeling supported, the rest of that stuff will start to fall like bowling pins. I use the bowling analogy, because sometimes you have to work harder on some of those pins. But ask for help and don’t give up.
How You Can Own It!
- Believe that you have the right to access and communicate.
- Learn about your hearing loss and if necessary, re-define your goals.
- Be honest and open about your hearing loss.
- Become knowledgeable about helpful strategies, including technology.
- Express your needs to other people, in an assertive, but positive, manner.
- Model good communication practices.
- Be an advocate for others.
- Make your hearing care professional, family and friends partners in your success.
- Reach out to individuals and groups with hearing loss and who use cochlear implant.
- Take every possible moment to be grateful for what has been dreamed and is now real.
Good luck – I’m cheering for you!