At the age of 27, I was a glowing new mom. My son was a healthy seven-pounder with tufts of strawberry-blond hair. My days were spent holding him because I didn’t want to let go. My nights were spent with him laying beside me. The only way I could fall asleep was to have that baby with me at all times.
At the same time I became a mom, something else choose to be with me 24 hours a day. It was the sound of ringing bells in both my ears—a sound that only I could hear. It was the growing awareness that voices had become softer. Hearing loss chose me, but I didn’t want it to.
Adult-onset hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) are more common than anyone cares to admit. Causes: noise exposure, illness, hormonal changes, genetics or, in my case, all of these things.
Are you dealing with a hearing loss you weren’t born with? These three principles have helped put my mind at ease.
1) Hearing loss may shape who I am now, yet some things never change. If I can remember the things about myself that remain the same—my dreams, goals, personality traits—then I know that hearing loss hasn’t defeated me. Before my hearing diagnosis, I wanted to write. Eleven years later, I write. I once dreamed that I would have a healthy family. Eleven years later, I have three healthy children and a loving husband. I’ve always enjoyed being around people. Hearing loss or not, that hasn’t changed.
2) Hearing loss heightens my compassion—an awareness of other people’s needs. If I stop focusing on what I don’t have, I realize that a lot more people have far less than I do. How can I help them? My focus instead shifts from my hearing loss to reaching out to other people. My ears may be defective, but my hands and feet work fine. I’m still able-bodied to serve others.
3) Hearing loss is a community. Among those I can reach out to are millions of people worldwide living with hearing loss. I have found a sense of community through such groups as the Hearing Loss Association of America, Association of Late-Deafened Adults, the SayWhatClub, and many more organizations online. I can use my skill (writing) and my compassion to touch the lives of this growing community. In doing so, I know that I am not alone.
If you substitute the words “Hearing Loss” in the above paragraphs with “My Life,” you can put into context what a gift my hearing diagnosis has been. My senses of compassion, community, and change are heightened. I like that aspect of hearing loss.
How has hearing loss shaped who you are today?