Yes, I’m Young – Yes, I Have Hearing Loss

My guest writer this week is Karina Cotran. Karina lives in Toronto and works in communications at Loblaws. She is the author of Hearing Differently: Growing Up With a Cochlear Implant and blogs on Hearing Differently. 

 

“You have hearing loss? But…you’re not…like…old.”

This is a common response that I, a 25 year old, usually get when I tell other people that I have hearing loss. Most people my age usually link the concept of hearing loss to their aging grandparent of 75+ years. Not that I blame them. If it weren’t for the booming online presence of the hearing loss community, I could have easily gone most of my young adult life not having met another young adult with hearing loss!

Aside from the common misconception that only older people have hearing loss, here are some other misconceptions that I’ve run into:

 

Hearing aids and cochlear implants mimic perfect hearing

Technology has advanced in leaps and bounds since I was a young child. The way I hear now with my current cochlear implant is definitely a lot a better than the way I used to hear with the older cochlear implant I wore when I was ten years old. Also, for those who wore cochlear implants in the 90s and early 2000s, does anyone miss having to tuck the long wire that connected the processor and the actual ear piece under your shirt?

Yeah, me neither.

However, even with all of this, I still struggle with hearing things in loud environments or understanding a person if they aren’t facing me. Hearing aids and cochlear implants cannot restore or cure hearing loss, they only help it.

 

Dating a person with hearing loss is too complicated

Today, online dating has become the norm. When you ask a young adult how they met their significant other, there’s a high chance they’ll say they met on some dating app. That’s how I met my current boyfriend. However, I noticed that when I first gave online dating a try, when I revealed my hearing loss to whomever I was talking to, the conversation would slowly taper off, or it would just abruptly end. How rude.

This made me assume that most people think that dating someone with hearing loss would be too complicated. But guess what, relationships in general are complicated.

When navigating living with another person – trust me when I say hearing loss isn’t going to be the main hurdle. There will be a hurdle, yes, but not enough to define a relationship – at least, that’s my experience.

Just wait until you’re in a relationship long enough that your partner knows when you’re bluffing and calls you out on it. Every. Single. Time.

 

Everyone with hearing loss can sign

Whenever I bring up my hearing loss, one of the first questions I’m asked by other folks is if I know sign language. Or some people just assume I do, until we run into someone that does know sign language, and we both just stare blankly at the person doing the signing.

I know several people with hearing loss that know how to sign, and others who don’t. 

I was never taught sign language and was raised to use speech. I was born to hearing parents, educated in a hearing school and was smoothly integrated into a hearing lifestyle (with some bumps along the way). I did try signing and took sign language classes in university but, like learning any other language, I quickly forgot what I learned because I didn’t stick with it as I did not have signing deaf friends to practice with.

So, please don’t start signing at me because my miming attempts to tell you that I don’t sig aren’t pretty.

 

People with hearing loss can’t drive

When I used to work in retail, I told a customer that I had hearing loss because she spotted my cochlear implant. She tutted, “oh you poor thing…you could be learning how to drive by now. It’s a shame you can’t.” I never understood this. I understand the importance of hearing sirens, but that can be solved by vigilantly checking the rear view and side mirrors for the tell-tale of flashing lights.

Driving is based on visual cues, and making sure to signal appropriately, checking blind spots and all that jazz. One time, I was driving and my cochlear implant battery died on me. It was strange going from hearing sound to absolute silence when I didn’t expect it, but other than being extra vigilant with my mirrors, I managed just fine.

So yes, I can drive. I just can’t park.

It’s easy to have misconceptions about hearing loss. Even I have misconceptions about how another person with hearing loss might hear – because the way they hear is still different from how I can hear. All in all, it’s one big learning experience – regardless if you’re young and regardless if you have hearing loss or not.

 

 

 

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

5 Comments

  1. What a fantastic blog I agree with everything she has written. Although I consider my life ruined by losing my hearing I absolutely hate it because mine came overnight while I was in my 40’s Been wearing cochlears implants for many many years. And still depressed over it and still can’t hear. I live a very isolated life and very very depressed

  2. All of this, yes! I can especially relate to online dating….so many stories! I once went on a date that was a total bust- the guy was on his phone the whole night and didn’t make any conversation. Was just going to ghost and forget about it, but the next day he texted me and asked me very accusingly when I was going to tell him that I had a hearing and speech problem. I am pretty sure I don’t have a speech problem? Like you I was raised with hearing aids by hearing parents and went to a mainstreamed school and I don’t sign. Anyways, got really pissed about this comment, and then got really upset because I didn’t have any other people who could relate to what had just happened or how to navigate it. I’m thankful that I joined online communities to connect and learn more from others!

  3. I can identify, Gael! Only thing, I am profoundly deaf now, having a lifetime progressive hearing loss and a complete loss about 30+ years ago. I am an excellent lipreader with good speech & it does get annoying to suddenly become invisible once someone realizes I am deaf. I have 70 years of experience at being deaf and am comfortable with it. I chose not to get a cochlear implant back when those became available because other deaf who did the implant eventually turned them off permanently. I also was aware that if the implant did not work for me, there would be no further options. Looking forward to seeing your blog!

  4. Great blog! I’m also in my 20s, and grew up with a cochlear implant, I can relate to pretty much everything you wrote about! Great read and great to read about other people with very similar experiences :)

  5. Thank you Corina. So true. I wasn’t as young as you when I started wearing HAs, but younger than most folks whose hearing loss is related to age. Now I’m “of that age,” but still need to remind people that they need to face me, because my loss is severe.

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