When I became a mother, I desperately fought to show I was competent. Not only was I hearing impaired and trying to act as if I wasn’t, but I was fresh out of college when I became (SURPRISE!) a young mother. Of course I wanted to be a good mom for the sake of Colin, but at 23 years old, I also cared a lot about what others thought of me. I wanted them to see me not only as a good mom but as a good future wife of my fiancé- now husband, Jeff, and also a good employee, a good friend, a good writer, a good cook, a good dancer… I could go on and on. Anyhow, whatever I was doing at a given moment, and because of the high (and often unattainable) expectations I set for myself, I wanted others to think I was great. If I sensed they felt I was anything less than that, I found a way to blame my hearing loss for holding me back. To cope, I have often pretended to hear when I can’t, and frankly, it’s EXHAUSTING.
I have wasted so much time and energy to communicate as a hearing person when if I were to just admit the truth to people, life would be so much easier. I know this intellectually, but emotionally, it’s difficult. I wish I could declare that I don’t have any shame or embarrassment associated with being hearing impaired (I know I can’t help it, after all), but it would not be the truth. I wish I enjoyed being alone more, but that doesn’t work for me either. Even in the noisiest, most difficult-to-hear situations, I am an extraverted person energized by large groups of people. To be away from that, even when I can’t hear a single word that is being said, is too much to bear. As a result, I am perpetually at odds with my ears.
When I turned 30, after 21 years of knowing I was hearing impaired, I felt the most broken I had in my entire life. My hearing had grown worse, and parenting, socializing, and working became increasingly more challenging. Something had changed, and it became excruciatingly difficult to understand the world around me. There were times when I didn’t hear my name in a waiting room, or I couldn’t enjoy a movie, and I would get in my car and cry- literally sob -for hours. I was so angry and defeated. I felt hopeless.
In 2012, at the age of 31, I was struggling more than ever to hear and decided to have my hearing tested again. I learned I was able to lip read with 98% accuracy. Without people facing me, however, I tested 20% for speech recognition.
The truth? My hearing sucks. IT. SUCKS. Though I hear low tones normally, when tones reach moderate to high frequencies (think cell phones, sirens, oven timers), I don’t hear much at all. If I do, I am confused as to where the sound is coming from, and I imagine I hear a distorted version of the "normal" sound. Considering that speech is a combination of all frequencies, when someone talks, I often hear a chaotic, static-like bunch of sounds, as if the person speaking is under water. I struggle with clarity, and if there is any background noise-and there often is- forget it. This is not a hearing loss where I can turn up the volume on the TV and suddenly hear better. Naturally, with the ears God has given me, my hearing is poor and steadily declining—that is, unless drastic measures are taken.
At the age of 31, I’ve decided I don’t want to feel broken anymore.
After trying five- yes, FIVE!- very powerful versions of state-of-the art hearing aids, and after “successfully failing” my 2012 audiogram, I have qualified… finally… for a cochlear implant.
My surgery is on April 18th. SO SOON. It is anticipated that my life will change dramatically.
In the time leading up to the surgery, I will write more explaining the procedure, my thoughts about it, and what is expected regarding recovery. For now, I will say that I have been told that in time, I could eventually recognize 85 to 100% of sounds around me. I can not even imagine what this will be like.
I realize this blog will reach many who know I am hearing impaired. I also know there is a good chance that whoever you are, we have never talked about it before. To my family, my friends, my classmates, my teachers, my colleagues, my bosses, my babysitters- heck, even the nice workers at Dunkin' Donuts who have to deal with me not understanding them at the drive thru about 95% of the time, I sincerely thank you. Thanks for repeating yourself, for speaking to me face to face, for taking whatever extra step it might have been so that I understand you better. I appreciate it. More so, I thank you for letting me be me, even if it meant allowing me to pretend for all this time. But the truth is out now, and a new chapter begins.