How I learned to accept my deafness
I’m deaf in one ear. Fully deaf. I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while but it’s honestly taken me a long time to get to this point of acceptance. I’m not writing to complain, I’m simply writing to shed light on what it means to live with a disability, this disability — it’s a reality that many people just don’t have much experience with or understand.
I am noticing the challenges of my deafness a lot more lately. The more I find myself in group situations, the more noticeable it becomes. Why? Because I can’t hear everything. My response then is to seclude myself. I know to many that may seem like I’m being cold and rude but that’s far from the truth. I want to be included, so much.
Even when I tell people that I can’t hear, they forget and I don’t blame them. There’s not really anything about me that screams deaf. I don’t sign, and I can actually hear quite a lot. It’s just when things get busy, that I feel myself start to get overwhelmed. I get quiet. In those situations I can pick up bits and pieces of what’s happening around me, but then all I hear is static; everyone’s words get jumbled together and I have no choice but to strain to listen. It’s difficult not being able to hear everything. Especially in that moment when people look at you to add in your two cents; the truth is I probably have no idea what the conversation is about.
I’ve been deaf in my left ear for as long as I can remember. When I was younger teachers thought I was slow, and I was put in classrooms with added help. I refused to wear an FM system and I didn’t tell anyone that I was deaf; I didn’t want others to see me as less than my peers. I harbored a lot of resentment then, and a lot of hatred for that time in my life. In my heart I knew that if I were challenged in school, and not belittled, I could excel. But I wasn’t sure how to make that all happen.
It wasn’t until I left that school district and moved away that my life began to change for the better. With new people around me, no one viewed me as the girl who was a little slow anymore. I started feeling brave, more confident, and I began to tell people that I was deaf. The reactions weren’t negative like I thought they would be. People seemed to understand, even if they forgot a lot. I slowly began to feel very differently about myself. More self assured.
There are some benefits to being deaf in one ear. For instance, if I sleep on my good ear I can drown out what’s going on around me. There are some weird unexpected downsides too, like vibrations. My sophomore year in college I had a roommate who really loved loud music — the music shook the room. I tried explaining to her that the vibrations kept me up, but she didn’t quite get that. Honestly, it was hard to explain.
My hope in sharing this story is to remind readers that not everyone can hear out of both ears. If you’re with someone who seems to miss a lot or doesn’t seem engaged, they might not be shy, out of it, or “dumb” — it’s possible they can’t hear you.
I’m not shy and I hope I’m not rude, but I know that I can sometimes come across as both. I know sometimes I may ask weird questions, or make strange requests but that’s because my world is a little different. So I ask you to remember that sometimes people have things going on behind-the-scenes that make them unique. Give them a chance, allow them the opportunity to open up, and never reject someone just because they seem a bit unlike you. The world is made up of all different kinds of people. There’s a lot to discuss. And we should keep talking about all of the different, challenging, special things that make us, us. My deafness is just one of the things that makes me, me.
[Image via Shutterstock]