Yin Meets Yang: the Benefits of Disclosing Your Hearing Loss

By Michele Linder – Originally posted Dec. 14, 2017

There are both good and bad things related to hearing loss, but the misconceptions that others⎯those who do not know what it’s like firsthand⎯have about it are something we who live with it every day have a responsibility to change.

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Reading a Hearing Like Me article, Being the Change: How to End Hearing Loss Prejudice, this morning made me think of my own life and the moments along the way where I felt as if I was doing my part to put a positive spin on living with hearing loss.

Do you remember the exact moment that caused you to turn the corner? That point when you went from accepting the negative of how others see you with hearing loss⎯sometimes we feel as limited as the wrong perceptions we encounter⎯to a more confident and better version of yourself and capability?

For me, it was a gradual, decades-long process. Each teaching moment pushing me toward who I wanted to be without my even knowing I was headed there, until something would happen to shine a light on the positive. I’ve written about such moments, and this article, from November 2014, was a memorable moment for me:

Be What You Want the World to See

Originally posted on the SayWhatClub Blog,
November 20, 2014

be who you want the world to see

You just never know… there will be moments when people cross your path at the exact time you need them, for the exact encouragement you are looking for. I’ve had this happen to me countless times in my life, and when it happens I’m always in awe of how the universe looks out for me.

Then, on the flip side, you just never know when your presence in another’s life will be just what they need at that moment. Those moments are just as awe-inspiring, they serve to give you confidence, and to let you know all of the struggling you’ve done to get to a better place can have value, not only for you, but also for others who are struggling and searching for answers.

Sometimes all that is needed is someone to cry with. Never underestimate the power of sharing tears and letting down your guard to show compassion. It means a lot no matter which end you are on.

One morning last week, I got up at 5:30 to leave the house in order to drive (an hour and a half) to Grand Rapids for an appointment with the Morton Building people to talk about some barn improvements I’m looking to make to our pole barn. The gentleman who handles our area of Minnesota seemed very nice via our email conversation, and upon meeting him I could tell he was very eager to accommodate my hearing loss, which I had made him aware of through our Internet correspondence.

Morton Man and I walked to his office and got down to the business of barn brainstorming.  During our meeting, there came a point when we needed to go out into the warehouse to look at some of the applications we were discussing. Talking while walking came into play, and, of course, when someone is trying to show you something and talk at the same time they tend to point at what they’re talking about. Pointing also means they tend to look at what they are pointing at, which is a train wreck for a lipreader, so the Morton Man kept apologizing for looking away as he pointed. I told him it was okay, as there is a learning curve, he would eventually get it.

The Morton Man paused, and I could clearly see he was collecting himself to tell me something personal. When he spoke, he told me our interaction was actually very good training for him because he had a 4 year-old granddaughter with a conductive hearing loss. As he shared her story, it was clear how concerned he and his family were for her and how emotional it was to see their beloved girl struggle to hear. This began a 15 minute discussion about hearing loss, how really debilitating it can be, but also how manageable it can become if you have the right attitude and tools. We talked at length about the information that was out there and how to go about finding that information, and I shared some of my own experiences with him, telling him how hearing loss does threaten to take much from you, but it can’t take more than you let it. At one point he actually broke down and cried and had to collect himself before he continued speaking. I instinctively gave him a hug and let him know that it was okay to cry, as hearing loss is very upsetting. Tears are common and very appropriate.

As we walked back to the office and began again talking about my barn, the Morton Man paused once more to say, “I have kind of a strange request… my daughter’s office is just a couple of miles down the street and I think it would be beneficial for her to talk to you and to see someone who is deaf and who handles it so well.”

I told the Morton Man, “Sure, I’d be glad to stop in and meet your daughter. We can exchange contact information and I can share some resources with her that might help her deal with her daughter’s ongoing hearing loss.”

Our meeting on barn matters concluded and I followed Morton Man to his daughter’s office. The daughter and I had a very similar conversation as the one I had had with her dad, as he looked on. I repeated some of the same information that I had given him and there were about three instances where the daughter teared up and had to compose herself, which, of course, made her dad break down. I held her hand or hugged her each time and then went over and hugged her dad. It came in handy that I come from a family of contagious criers… I’m pretty comfortable with tears.

We all exchanged information and I promised to email the daughter with some research results on groups she might join for parents of children with hearing loss and other information I thought she might find helpful.

The final thought I left the Morton Man and his daughter with was this: Make sure you instill in your granddaughter/daughter that there isn’t anything she can’t do because of her hearing loss. And when you come up against people who might discourage your girl from participating in something because she can’t hear, move on to the next person, and the next until you find that one person who says, “Let’s see what you can do.” If she knows she can do anything, believes it, and then acts upon it, it becomes true… she’ll be okay.

And their little girl will be okay… it won’t be easy, there will be challenges, but she’ll learn some good things along the way to carry into who she becomes as an adult.

Yes, you can be capable, confident, strong, and deaf.  I’ve learned that from people who have crossed my path at the exact moment I needed them, saying “You’re not alone, you’ll be okay.” I’m thankful for the opportunity to pay it forward on days when I’m able to be what I want the world to see.

The Trouble with Hearing Loss Memes

I look for hearing loss memes to post on our work Facebook page. Some are funny, some are true and some are way off base.  Let’s take a look at memes.

This happens all the time with people who have hearing loss and there’s a variety of reasons. We can sense the other person’s agitation and we still didn’t hear it so we nod and let it go. Or someone is in deep denial still and afraid to admit they can’t hear.

Continue reading “The Trouble with Hearing Loss Memes”

The Gift: A Story About Hearing Loss in Childhood

SayWhatClub (SWC) is pleased to welcome guest writer and SWCer Elaine Procida who shares the story of her childhood hearing loss and a special someone who helped return to her what she feared was lost forever.

He's writing your copy or you!

By Elaine Procida

When I was four years old, I seemed to have a lot going for me. A happy, well adjusted child with a love for people and learning, I had been enrolled in pre-school where I quickly became the teacher’s pet. But I was totally unaware that, even while I was feeling so happy, that something had happened that would soon change my life.

My preschool teacher noticed that when she called me I sometimes did not respond. She asked my mother if there was anything wrong with my hearing, but my mother had not noticed the problem that was developing. By the time I was in first grade, my personality was already showing the effects of the invisible disability which had not yet been diagnosed. I began to realize I was different from the other children but did not understand how or why.

No longer a “happy child.” I felt confused and nervous.

A hearing test at that time revealed that I had a severe hearing loss, and so I started my “non-school” years. Mostly ignored by teachers and students, angry and confused, I felt happy only when I could escape to the books I loved to read. I educated myself by reading which helped to compensate for the lessons I did not hear. Back in the 1950’s when I was in school, special help for the hard of hearing child was largely nonexistent. The few services they did provide, such as having a special desk for me placed in front of the room, only served to reinforce my feelings that I was different and somehow inferior. No one ever sat down and just talked to me about my hearing loss and what I could expect.

I remember many painful experiences but I will mention just one as an example.

We were having a special day in school where we were permitted to bring a favorite toy to class. A class-mate had a large doll. Because my desk was larger than the others she asked if I would switch with her for the day so she would have more room to keep her doll on it. I was delighted that someone thought I had something desirable, and was happy to let her use it. We approached the teacher and asked for permission. I can still
remember the look on the teacher’s face. Ignoring me, she turned to the other girl and said crossly, “You sit at your own desk! There is nothing wrong with your ears.” I turned away with tears in my eyes and what should have been a happy day turned into another miserable one.

The school always divided each class into three groups. The slowest, average, and smartest. Even with my hearing loss, I never failed a test and was always seated with the average students. But I wanted so badly to be with the best – feeling somehow that was where I belonged.

As I approached my last year of elementary school, I had no reason to believe it would be any better than the previous years. Rather, I had good reason to fear it would be worse! The teacher we were assigned for sixth grade had a reputation for being strict and harsh. Along with every other student assigned to Miss Singer’s class, I feared her. She was already past retirement age, and we were all hoping she would retire before we had her but, to our dismay, she decided to stay another year.

After a few weeks in Miss Singer’s class, I found, to my surprise, that I was much happier there than I had been in any previous class. She had never, in any way, indicated that she knew I had a hearing loss. On the first day of school she seated us according to our height. Since I was on the small side, I was assigned to the second seat. It was actually better for me than the hated “front” seat. It seemed that when she taught us she would always be standing or sitting where I could easily read her lips and I had no problem keeping up with the lessons. I was probably in her class several months before I found out that she was very much aware or my hearing loss. The class had displeased her somehow and she lashed out at them. Then she turned to me and said: “If Elaine had her hearing, she would be head and shoulders above most of you.” I was speechless! Miss
Singer not only knew I had a hearing loss, but she was the first person to tell me that, far from being worthless, I was as good as the other students.

On the last day of school, I met her in the schoolyard. She put her arm around me and told me she was concerned about me going off to Junior High School. I could see that this wonderful teacher, with so many years of teaching behind her, wished she could continue to be with me. When I entered Junior High, I found that the new school also grouped the students in three classes. But this time I was assigned to the best “A” class. I
knew then that Miss Singer was still with me and that she had given me a priceless gift. She had given me back my belief in myself.


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