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5 Things I Never Told My Friends About My Hearing Loss

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I was diagnosed with moderate hearing loss when I was in my third year of college. It felt like just another thing on top of a bad health sundae. I was not a stranger to hearing loss, as I was studying American Sign Language and had been for over a year. However, that didn’t change the stress that ensued from my sudden realization that I was officially hard-of-hearing. Here’s what I often don’t tell people.

1. I’m still scared sometimes.

Yeah, I know I should be comfortable with being hard-of-hearing.  I study American Sign Language and now even tutor high school students in American Sign Language. I truly enjoy being part of the Deaf community and hope that I will continue to be able to be part of it for the rest of my life. However, I cannot explain how scary it is to stand in a room with your family and know they are talking but not be able to fully understand them.  It’s scary to think I’m one step closer to losing my hearing completely. I don’t dwell on it, but the thought pops into my head from time to time.

2. Sometimes I feel like I’m between worlds.

I’m not hearing and I’m not Deaf.  Most people assume that I hear just like everybody else when they see me out at the store or at work. I still talk quite well, and when I’m with my family or at work I communicate in spoken English. However, I’m often missing several words in conversations, and it is difficult some days to talk as clearly because I don’t hear my own voice as well as I used to. When I’m in the Deaf community, things are flipped. People assume I sign fluently, but even on a good day I cannot express everything I want to in American Sign Language, and I cannot understand everything someone signs to me.  I’m in between and I can’t understand anyone fully.

3. It hurts sometimes that my family doesn’t sign.

I will always love my family, but sometimes I wish I could communicate with them all the time. Sometimes I feel isolated from them when we’re in large groups. I have amazing friends who sign, but knowing that I don’t have that relationship with my family makes me sad sometimes.

4. People staring at me makes me uncomfortable.

When we are out in public and I have to ask someone to repeat something when I’m ordering food or look at me when they talk or if I sign something to you, people stare at me like I grew a second head.  I will usually point it out to you with a sign that indicates someone is looking at me and a funny face.  I try to make a joke of it, but it really sucks.  I know that usually people are just curious but it can be so uncomfortable to be an attraction for people to watch.

5. I wouldn’t change my hearing loss.

Yes, I have bad days when I’m angry that I can’t communicate or understand people all the time. Yes, there are times when I’m upset that my family doesn’t know sign. Yes, sometimes I’m scared of what is to come. However, I wouldn’t change my hearing loss.  It makes me who I am. It gave me a tie to a community I love and a language that is beautiful. It gave me the strength to advocate for myself and work towards the things I want. It forced me to push past barriers I didn’t even know existed in my life. Overall it makes me a better more tolerant person and I love that.

There are a lot of things I want people to know about me and my hearing loss, but most people already know most of them. I’m an open book — and that is just another one of the many things my hearing loss has taught me.

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Originally published: November 29, 2016
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