Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Are You Still Having Problems With Your Hearing?

Today, a person I faintly recognized came up to me. She asked, "Are you still having problems with your hearing?"

I'll admit I was kind of taken aback by her question. I looked at her and replied, "I have been deaf since I was four." (Actually, I'm sure I had some hearing loss before that, but it was diagnosed when I was four.)

She told me she knew me from my American Sign Language courses in high school, but did not give me an explanation of what she'd said. I just said something about it being permanent and she left.

Since having this conversation, I've wondered if there was something in what I told her six years ago that she may have thought meant that my hearing loss was temporary. In my ASL courses I was always pretty open with others about my loss. The nature of the class meant that it typically attracted students interested in the stories of people who deal with hearing loss. I made several presentations using my own type of hearing loss and my own hearing charts as examples for the class.

The way she asked if I was still having "trouble" confused me as well. To me, "trouble with my hearing" means a minor difficulty, maybe minor tinnitus or difficulty hearing in a crowded situation. It doesn't mean the severe/profound loss that I have in both ears.

It made me think about the way people perceive hearing loss. Many people seem to think that either a person with loss was born with it and joins the Deaf community, using ASL, or they suffer hearing loss as a natural part of aging which can be corrected with hearing aids or just asking people to speak up. I don't think that many people are used to meeting a young person with a hearing loss who doesn't use ASL. So, that may have led her to think my loss was temporary.

One thing about hearing aids/cochlear implants: they certainly do help you meet the most interesting people.

Also, a word of note about my ASL classes in high school: My high school offered just Spanish and French as a foreign language. I've always had a tough time with foreign languages. Thankfully, I was able to take two years of college-level ASL classes instead at the local community college. My high school paid the tuition. Though it meant taking night courses a couple times a week, it meant I could fit more interesting classes into my days at school and that I learned a bit of a language most useful to me.

4 comments:

  1. Wow, I can relate to this post. I receive a lot of "Still" questions. I have know from the outset that my hearing loss was permanent and also progressive. People that I see in passing every few months are so, seem amazed that I "still" need them to face me when they speak. "Still" need to have CC on when watching Tv with me. "Still" don't call them and rather text because my "hearing is bad". It's those types of things that make D/deaf blogs so necessary. That way people that are truly interested in becoming educated can more easily do so without intimidation.

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  2. Hi Megan,
    I took an ASL class after I was first diagnosed with hearing loss. Most of the students knew about my situation but one didn't. When I signed about my loss as one of the assignments, I asked her afterwards what she thought of my story. She was rather puzzled why I would ask as if I were fishing for a compliment. I said "You know it's true, right?" She was floored.
    I have also had well meaning friends and relatives inquire about my hearing loss, not understanding that it's permanent. I agree with L.J. that blog posts like this one are very helpful.
    Thanks for sharing your experience, Megan.

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  3. This comment bothered me a bit as I view other people's comments as their attempts to relate socially, express interest in another person, etc. If they don't remember, precisely, the nature of the other person's problem, well is that really a problem? Such an entre is an opportunity to connect, to relate, to be sociable.

    While I have a hearing loss, I also had a hip replacement 3 years ago and from time to time I'll run into folks I haven't seen in a while and many ask "How's your knee?" Should I reject them for being less than accurate, or thank them for expressing an interest? I choose the latter and merely remind them it was my hip.

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  4. I do, Thank you for this post.

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