SAY WHAT…

It’s no secret – I’m severely hearing impaired or a better term, I have a hidden disability.  Yes my condition is a disability, however, to my  disadvantage I look totally normal.  I can walk, run, jump, see and to a stranger, it appears that I can hear.  Appearances are not necessarily reality.  My hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss and the root of my hearing loss lies in the vestibulocochlear nerve, the inner ear or central processing centers of the brain.   Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by abnormalities in the hair cells of the organ of Corti in the cochlea.   Simply put, I’m severely hearing impaired with a very good chance of waking up one morning to be completely deaf.  Cause of this impairment can be from loud noises, infection or genes and in my case the condition runs in my family.

I use the term hidden disability because it describes my situation.  People don’t necessarily notice my hearing aids (even though I never attempt to hide them) and even if people notice the hearing aids, there is no way for a stranger to understand the implications of my deafness.  Approximately eight years ago while using the phone at work, suddenly the sound of the person’s voice on the other end of the connection sounded hollow and as if I was talking through a tunnel.  After a series of in-depth tests it was revealed what I feared.  My hearing had deteriorated and there is no way to know if and when my hearing will completely leave me.   The tests also revealed that I am a candidate for a cochlear implant.   I haven’t signed on to be on the waiting list for an implant simply because the procedure scares me and it’s an adventure into unknown territory.    Right now I get by with the help of hearing aids, lip-reading and at times I piece  words from a conversation together like piecing a jigsaw puzzle.

I’ve been blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life, family and friends, but it is frustrating how a deaf or severely hearing impaired person can be treated.  I mostly ignore this treatment, but I have to admit at times it’s hard.  People treat you like you are lacking in  intelligence, or worse, like you don’t exist at all.   Sometimes this treatment isn’t from strangers; it can be from family and friends.  Lack of understanding or ignorance is at the root of this treatment and I try to remind myself of that every time an incident occurs.

A long time ago before I was married and  before I met my husband – I was in a relationship with a man for a few years.  One time over coffee a girlfriend says to me ” I’m really surprised you have a boyfriend.”  I was somewhat confused and I asked her why this would surprise her?  She said “because of your deafness, I’m surprised that you have found a man who would go out with you especially with your condition.”   It’s very rare that I am silent,  but I was stunned into silence.  My first reaction was anger and I thought “does she think that you need to hear to be loving, sensual, sexy and desired.”  “Believe me honey you don’t need to hear to be all of that and more.”   Just as I was about to blurt out something nasty and full of anger, a thought occurred to me that made  me feel sad for her.  She was relating her own fears, her belief that you have to be perfect in order to be loved.  Instead of an angry response, I said “I feel sorry for you if you think you have to be perfect to be loved, you don’t, that’s not how real love works.”  The effect was stunned silence from her.  She never said anything like that ever again.

All my life I’ve dealt with inconsiderate comments – something I’ve accepted and usually I use wit and  humour to deal with these comments.  I am at ease with my hearing loss and can laugh at some of the humorous situations that I get myself into.  I grew up with two brothers who loved to tease and what better person to tease than the hearing impaired person.  Their teasing was never about being condescending, it was about loving and accepting me as a whole.    However, in the real world people are not like that.   I can’t tell you how often, in a group setting, where I encounter the most difficulty, I’ve asked a person to repeat something and they either ignore me or wave me off like I’m not there – makes me feel left out and isolated.   When I confided at work that my hearing had become worse making phone use even more difficult a co-worker said to me  “you should apply for disability.”  My response was “disability is  for people who can’t work, I am fully able to work.” Her comment lacked empathy and after I had time away, I realized, again this was about her fears not my disability.  These types of incidences happen to me on a daily basis and I fight very hard not to feel isolated, not to withdraw myself from society and remain social.

The one positive aspect I can take from my lack of hearing is I know who my friends are, the friend who supports me whether I hear them or not, the friend who knows when I’m not hearing at a party and fills me in as soon as she gets the chance, the friend who uses my choice of communication (e-mail, facebook or skype) rather than phoning because she knows how difficult the phone can be, the friend who whispers into my ear scene by scene of what’s happening in a movie while at a theatre so I don’t miss any of the story, consequently totally screwing me up and I’ve never had the heart to tell her that I didn’t hear a damn thing she said (thank God for movie theatre closed caption devices) and the friend that takes the time to make sure we get together and purposely chooses a quiet restaurant because she knows I don’t do well in loud settings.

So Many blessings in so many areas of my life, a prayer of gratitude every day.  My morning routine is to get out of bed walk over to my bureau pick up my hearing aids and place them in my ears.  Within that split second between putting the hearing aids in my ears and turning on the device I wonder “will I hear today?”  The moment I hear sound I know it’s  a good day because today I will hear my children’s laughter, hear my youngest son singing along to the radio in the car, hear my husband’s constant jokes and teases throughout the day and  there are days if I stand very still outside amongst the trees and a bird is close enough, I may hear that bird chirping knowing that today could be the last day I hear her beautiful song.  Below a story I can relate.  A story of two girls and how they get through severe hearing impairment.  You must choose to see yourself as beautiful  and immerse  your soul in complete acceptance in this complex world – the choice is really the only choice someone with deafness or severe hearing impairment can make because any other choice means going in the wrong direction as in one of these girls….

ANOTHER DAY!

If you haven’t heard the Amanda Todd story then you should watch this video.  Media says she was bullied to death – she recently committed suicide.  Not long before her suicide she made this video telling her story.  There’s more to this story than bullying, in fact I’m not sure you can call it bullying.  Amanda was abused and victimized.  The kids who assaulted her need to be charged and the man who blackmailed her needs to be found and put in jail.  He’s a sexual predator creeping on young insecure girls through the internet and when he doesn’t get what he wants from them he ruins their life.  That’s what happened to Amanda, he threatened her and then he followed through with his threat.  He knew everything about her, her address, her school, her friends – it’s damn scary.  You think your kids are safe behind closed doors.  The other side of this story is what society is doing to young girls.  How is it we’ve come so far but not really.  It’s nothing new that young girls are interested in being pretty and desirable to men, but it’s gotten out of hand today.  All the images that girls receive from the media adds up to one thing – girls can never be good enough – we need to be perfect or else we won’t be loved.  My sister is ten years my senior and I can remember when I was young all the kids in my neighourhood considered her to be beautiful.  That’s all I heard “your sister is so beautiful” and she really was beautiful and still is beautiful.  The ridiculous thing is even adults were going on about her being beautiful and I had adults saying to me “if you grow up to be half as beautiful as your sister you’ll be lucky!”   What a bloody stupid thing to say – what was I chopped liver?  Why do I have to look like by sister to be considered beautiful, why can’t I look like me and why is beautiful such an important thing?  I can happily say that I never hated my sister, nor did I spend my life wishing I looked like her.  I don’t look anything like her but I’m me and she is she, we are both unique and we both have many different qualities.  Back then we didn’t have the internet and I hardly watched tv so there weren’t these images popping up in front of me all the time telling me that I had to be perfect, but society back then did the same thing society does today – look how beautiful your sister is, you will be lucky if you look like her. Today images of beautiful, perfect woman are constantly on display to our children telling them that this is what you have to be to be happy and successful.  It was a load a crap what the neighbours said to me about my sister and it’s a load a crap what the media is saying to our children today.  The perfect woman is not the images you see on tv or in the magazine.  The reality is most of these woman have major insecurities and spend a lot of money on cosmetic surgery only to be forever unhappy.  That’s the message we should be getting across to our children rather than idolizing beauty, fame, and money.

Essentially that’s the sad part of the Amanda Todd story – she was innocently looking for attention on a chat line, looking to be admired and considered beautiful.  Really no different than a lot of girls but the result of her insecurities ended up being on public display for everyone to see.  The picture of her flashing is forever out there and she can never get that back.  Amanda’s video is so much more powerful than the flash picture and if she just hung on another day maybe she would of been just a little bit stronger and went on to help girls her age dealing with the same issues.  The difference between today and tomorrow is just that – another day.   Another day could be the day you’re waiting for, another day could be the day you will be strong, another day could be the day that you feel confident, another day could be the day that you make a difference in someone’s life, another day could be the day that you feel happy.  Without another day there is no hope, there is only sorrow, so grab another day and run with it, make it your day, every single day.  Amanda wrote her story and she shared her words with everyone – learn by her words and look around you because there are plenty Amanda’s out there in desperate need of a friend.

“Today’s beautiful moments are tomorrow’s beautiful memories.”