by Chelle George-Wyatt
I had to back up and think about my statement on Facebook the other day. I don’t identify with being hearing impaired and I know several others with hearing loss who don’t identify with it either. I’m not everyone and I’m not most people because some have said they don’t mind the label hearing impaired. I didn’t get my first pair of hearing aids until 23 yrs old and the lable I got then was “hard of hearing.” Since that was my first label maybe that’s what I’m most comfortable with??? I just can’t do the ‘hearing imparied’ for myself.
I looked up the definition of impaired:
1. Diminished, damaged, or weakened
2. Functioning poorly or incompetently
3. Having a physical or mental disability:
n. (used with a pl. verb)
People who have a physical or mental disability considered as a group
Truly, I felt all of the above at one point. Mostly that was before gaining support from others like myself, learning better coping strategies and educationing myself about high frequency hearing loss. Since then, the only time I’ve felt dimished, damaged or weakend is when I haven’t been given proper accommodations. When given those accommodations, I feel included, empowered, fully functional and able to participate.
Before learning better coping strategies, I may have seemed mentally incompacitated when I bluffed and guessed wrong. Once I gave up bluffing, most situations improved. When I took control of my hearing loss, more situations improved. When I educated myself and others about high frequency hearing loss, communication and relationships improved. I had to learn a different style of communication.
A different communication style plays into my current thinking from my past. When my middle son was in grade school, he was 2 ½ grade levels behind. When I took him to school in the morning he dragged his feet and sometimes cried before getting out of the car. He knew he was the ‘slowest’ child in class. Every day when I picked him up, I could see his self-esteem falling and it broke my heart. I demanded the school test him and they found out he has an auditory processing disorder. Because of all the ear infections as a baby/toddler, he learned visually instead of through his ears so he has a different learning style. Schools teach the auditory method. They wanted him to adapt. He didn’t even qualify for extra help while at school because his average peer was one grade level behind and since he was only “one” grade level behind, he was fine! I could not stand by and watch his self-esteem continue to plummet.
Instead, I researched his learning style and found out many kids are visual learners such as ADD and dyslexic. More and more kids were becoming visual learners but the schools won’t change. I took my son out of the public school system and homeschooled him for a couple of years teaching to his learning style. He blossomed, he caught on and he started learning again. I told him all the time he wasn’t the one who failed, it was the school who failed him.
When we moved to a different state he went back into the public system with an IEP (individualized education plan) in place this time. A few years later in high school he had it figured out, we dropped the IEP and he assimilated into the school without distress or low self-esteem. Success! He wasn’t impaired, he needed a different learning style.
I now apply that to my hearing loss. I haven’t failed, the set mode of communication has failed. More and more of us are becoming hard of hearing. Are we dimished, damaged or weakened? No, we have a different mode of communication that doesn’t fit standard society. Society is the one who makes me feel dimished, damaged and weakened, if we let it. It is part my fault not getting proper accommodations when I don’t educate others.
Why is everyone expected to be the same? We’re not. We all have different needs.
Is it my fault when others don’t accommodate me? Not neccesarily. I now know education is the key and I educate others almost every chance I get. Unfortunately there’s more educating to do, a lot more. I’ve learned things through trial and error. What works for me may not work for everyone. I apologize if I offend people, it was not my intent. I only know how the word ‘impaired’ affects me.
I can’t identify as deaf either. I’m somewhere between the worlds because I still use what’s left of my hearing and my eyes too. I have learned some sign language but I’m far from Deaf. Maybe that’s why it’s hard to label us, we all have our own ways.
There’s another word in the definition of impairment I don’t agree with; disability. I feel like I have a lot of ‘ability’ in the right environment. I like what these people have to say:
Please, share your views. I do my best to keep an open mind and I can be swayed. When some people use “hearing impaired” I don’t say anything because I know they mean well. When the state uses it to define me, I got a little riled up. It may take me a few days for comments to soak in but I really do consider all views.