*Scroll down to the bottom of this post to watch the ASL interpretation of this story.
I knew from a young age hearing-loss was a possibility, and sadly, around the age of 11, my hearing declined to the point of needing hearing-aids. It was a difficult transition at first, but I eventually adjusted to hearing-aids and the responsibility that comes with them. After some time, life with hearing-aids, and hearing-loss, became my normal.
I grew up in a fantastic community. There were many opportunities in high school to do what I loved and with a lot of support those years were extremely formative. I earned respect amongst my teachers and peers and was told life would go well for me if I continued to work hard and treat others with love and respect.
However, what most people from those years are unaware of is that period of my life was a time of deep pain despite all the good things that were happening to me. After my hearing declined, I was unprepared for the change that took place in my social life. In the world at large, being able to communicate depends on being able to hear what is being said to you so you can reply back.
It took some time, but after acquiring hearing-aids, I became aware I was missing large parts of conversations in nearly every setting. When someone told a joke in class, I usually missed it and was too embarrassed to ask for it to be repeated. On the court, sometimes I couldn’t hear what my coach was saying, which affected my ability as a teammate and player. Within my circle of friends, I slowly became more and more disconnected despite these people being committed to me.
The reality is, there is psychological aspect of having a hearing-loss that many who don't experience it themselves are unaware of. When I could not hear what was going on in the world, I started to retreat into my own. I found myself withdrawing from being present in the moment. I knew I would miss much of what was being said, so I thought, "Why try?" I put up walls and started to believe that no one cared or understood. Now that I'm older, I know people care and that it's my job to help them understand what I'm going through.
The world becomes pretty lonely when you miss the opportunity to connect because you can’t understand what is going on due to not hearing. For many with hearing-loss, this struggle always exists. While it has been a difficult journey, I want to tell people who are going through this that there is potential for emotional freedom. To find the path, you must first be brave enough to reach out and ask for help. Once I found the courage to tell a counsellor, my friends and support network at my church that I was hurting, I found their hands reaching back. Collectively, they formed a bridge and I found the support and strength I needed to pull myself up.
If I can do that, so can you. Please know, you are not alone.
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