When I was growing up, I wasn’t comfortable being hard of hearing. I hid my hearing aid under my hair and as soon as I arrived home from school, I tossed it on a ledge. I never touched the hearing aid during the summer. You’d almost never find me asserting myself by telling someone, “I’m hard of hearing, I need you to face me when you talk.” Only among close friends, would I have the courage to say, “What? Repeat that, would ya?”
So what happens when you’re not comfortable being deaf or hard of hearing? You hide it. You do everything possible to “fit in” and “look normal.” You develop an impressive arsenal of social bluffing skills. You nod along in conversation, figure out when to put in a thoughtful, “hmmm,” and ask questions that might lead you to a clue in the topic that is firing back and forth in a group.
When I became deaf at the age of nineteen, I changed in many ways. I learned American Sign Language and discovered many new deaf and hard of hearing friends for the first time in my life. Slowly, I tapered off the bluffing. I learned to take pride in being deaf, to be open about it, to rejoice in this whole journey. I can’t even begin to describe the differences. For one thing, you’d never catch me showing off my hearing aids on public television. Yes, those are my blue earmolds on ABC– aren’t they purty?
I love stories like this one: Social Bluffing, by Katie. In her post, Katie shares:
I have decided to be more honest with myself and with people I don’t know re: my hearing impairment. I’ve decided that it is perfectly OK to tell the cashier, the waitress or whomever I’m speaking to that I have a hearing impairment, and could they please talk slower and speak up for me?
In my experience, I’ve also discovered that when you are honest with people and tell them why they need to repeat what they said or word it differently for you, they are more than accommodating in the request. I am learning to give people more credit than I did in the past, which has allowed me a more positive view of the world.
In her guest post, Katie shares that she recently began this journey of becoming hard of hearing just a few years ago. So taking the action to assert herself is part of the path of learning to become comfortable about being hard of hearing and getting the communication access that is needed. Little by little, confidence comes from taking baby steps and then one day, you find yourself asserting your communication needs with relative ease.
Just the other day, I received this comment sent via the contact me form on this blog. I received permission to share it here:
Hi there Karen
I am Elias and I am 34yo from way down under
All my life i was in denial of my impairment and sort of closed myself from the deaf community. It wasn’t until a personal crisis that forced me to take a deep look inside myself.
I looked up on the internet for inspiration and help and i came across Stephen Hopson and it was what i needed. I was amazed to learn he is a pilot and motiovational speaker. The more i read about his life the more inspired i became. He woke me up so much and realised that I can do more for myself. I realise i finally knew what i wanted to do for myself and the world.
Then i came across your blog and for the past few months i read as many as i can from your blogs. All i can say is wow.
I wish to say a big thank you for showing me that it is okay to be deaf. I found your blog through Stephen
When i decided to check out your blog, i was amazed by your life experiences. Thank you for showing me that it’s okay to be deaf.
I plan to enter the world of Blogging hopefully soon.
Again thank you!
Thank you, Elias, for sharing your journey with me. I look forward to reading about your venture into the blogging world.
You’re right, Elias, it’s ok to be deaf.