keyboard with hand

SWC Online Voices

September 2009

An Open Letter to my "Hearing" Friends

by Shanna Groves

Dear Friend,

I want to discuss an important difference we have—something that can impact our entire communication from this point forward.

When you were born, your hearing was normal. So was mine. For years, I took the ability to hear for granted. I listened to my car stereo several notches too loud and sat in concert arenas filled with the shrill sounds of guitars, drums and vocalists belting out tunes. As a college student, I worked in a noisy printing press environment without wearing earplugs. All the while, my hearing gradually suffered.

For the past eight years, my life has differed from yours. It’s all because of a diagnosis I received two months after my oldest child was born: I have progressive hearing loss.

What does that mean? Imagine losing the sensitive hairs that line the back of your neck, one by one. You wait and wait for them to grow back, but they never do. For some unknown reason, the hairs are gone forever. That has happened to my inner ears. The nerve hairs in the deepest part of each ear have been destroyed permanently. Cause unknown. Without these hairs, my ears are not as sensitive to sound as yours.

The first part of my hearing that disappeared was with high-frequency pitches—birds singing, kids screaming, phones ringing, and all soft consonant sounds (f, s, t, v). Gone. Permanently. I am deaf to these noises.

The inability to hear high-frequency pitches affects all of my conversations with you.

You: “Is the baby sleeping?”
What I hear: “Ha! Baby leaping.”

You: “What time is it?”
What I hear: “Whoa, I’m in.”

I have worn hearing aids for six years to help with hearing better. But please repeat after me:


With my hearing aids, I can hear the phone ring and the kids scream and soft consonant sounds—most of the time. Yet even with the aids, I still can’t hear robins chirping over me as I sit on my backyard swing. Do I miss that sound? Yes. Every day.

I want to ask that the two of us find a way to bridge the gap between our hearing differences, to understand each other. So, here are my suggestions...

By writing to you, I hope to provide insight that will help when we have our next conversation. You are a good friend for taking the time to read this letter. You’ve shown support in my hearing journey by taking an interest in what I write. Thank you for that.

As your friend, here is my commitment to you...


Shanna Groves is the author of Lip Reader, a novel about a family dealing with hearing loss during the early 1980s. She blogs and speaks frequently about hearing loss issues and is actively involved with the Hearing Loss Association of America. For information about her books, blogs and speaking dates, visit:


BACK to Table of Contents