29, Assistant Nurse
Moderate Hearing loss, diagnosed at 9 years old
I was born deaf in both ears which they believe was caused by nerve deterioration. My mother was very ill while carrying me; she didn’t seek medical treatment as she believed she had just a severe case of morning sickness throughout the whole pregnancy.
When I was four years old, my mother took me to a hearing specialist at Blacktown Hospital. There I was seen by an elderly male doctor who walked with a stick, he sat me down next to a cassette tape player. He pressed the play button and within 30 seconds turned it off. He then turned around to my mother and said that I was ignorant and I needed a belting until I learned to listen.
So following doctors ordered I received a daily punishment for what I didn’t understand. It wasn’t until my fourth grade teacher Mrs Stanway called and requested to see my mother. It was here that she pointed out that she thought I had a hearing loss and had asked my mother to take note at home and see what her opinion was. My mother told her about the previous testing but agreed. Within a few days, another appointment was made to see another hearing specialist.
After the second hearing test, it was made abundantly clear that I had a moderate hearing loss in both ears. My parents were devastated, shocked and mortified that their little girl was hearing impaired all these years and they had been punishing me for something that was out of my control. I received my first pair of hearing aids when I was 9 years old. They were big and ugly. I hated them. I felt ashamed, embarrassed and like a complete freak for having to wear such things. At the same time as getting hearing aids, we moved suburbs which meant a whole new school and no friends.
People treated me differently- it was as though I had some infectious disease. I hated myself, and I hated my mum at the time, for I felt that she could have prevented all this if she had of just gone to the doctors when she was sick. I eventually made friends. However, I could never shake the feeling of people talking about me behind my back, the fear of meeting new people or even getting myself to meet guys. I was so consumed with this negative feeling about the whole wearing hearing aids that I never took the chance to let anyone close to me. It was until my late teens that I gained the courage to talk to guys. I had few relationships.
Finally at the age of 24 I met my fiancé. At first, I was reluctant to go on a date with him. I told him that he wouldn’t be interested in me when he found out my secret. Yes, I was still secretive about it. He laughed when I told him. He didn’t understand why that would stop him from taking me out. Two years later we had our beautiful baby boy Fletcher. He has perfect hearing.
I guess I’m very lucky. For someone to have been born deaf and went through the first 9yrs of their life without hearing well, my speech and English is perfect. Sometime people don’t even realise I have a hearing loss, even my friends forget that I’m hearing impaired due to my speech. This is where I really appreciated my parents for not picking up on it sooner. This is where I learnt to lip read. I watched the person’s mouth and their expressions to understand what they were trying to say and the emotions they were trying to get across. I know if things had of been different, I wouldn’t have the speech I have today or the ability to lip read. I had to learn the language before ever really hearing it properly. I sometime put up the subtitles during movies when I’m home by myself. Even if I have seen the movie heaps of times. I pick up on so much more with this technology, understand the movie better and memorize for future references so I don’t look stupid when everyone laughs at something I didn’t hear or understand.
One of the hardest things with this impairment is the noise factor. If I’m surrounded by a large group of people and are out in public i.e. shops, restaurants etc, I struggle to hear a simple conversation, so I find myself smiling at everyone, nodding in agreement, laugh, or stare blankly at them. Lucky for me, my friends and family know when I didn’t hear them. Talking on the office phone has always been hard for me. The sounds and words get muddled up and I always seemed to sound like such an idiot to customer. Even now as an Assistant Nurse, I find it hard to hear residents and even my own colleagues. They now have learnt that if I don’t respond I’m more than likely didn’t hear them.
It was and still is an emotional rollercoaster dealing with hearing loss. As I said before I hated myself for even having to wear hearing aids. I thought myself so unworthy as I still do now. I tried everything in my power to hide them behind my hair, which was difficult at times as they were ridiculously noticeable. My self-esteem hit rock bottom. I felt ugly with them in. I still have these issues even with my fiancé. He is supportive and understanding. He tries to make me feel sexier, beautiful and loved. Sometimes it helps other times it always falls back to being deaf.
Growing up and going through adolescents would probably be the hardest part of all this. I went through endless hours at school of being picked on because of my hearing aids. As if I didn’t hate myself already, this just made things a thousand times worst. My older brother was my saviour, there was one time he overheard a guy teasing me at the bus stop waiting to go home, and he grabbed the guy and told him to leave me alone otherwise he would come after him. Things slowly got easier then. I made friends easier, as people became more accepting of my loss.
During my pregnancy, I was worried that my baby could be born with the impairment, and this is not something that I’d wish on anyone especially my own children, as I knew the difficulties and the bullying that comes with this and growing up. No one should have to endure that kind of behaviour. It’s horrible and haunting, something that will be with you forever.
Being deaf has its fantastic moments. I can easily switch my hearing aids off if I didn’t want to hear someone rambling, or babies crying. My goodness, I even got out of jury duty because of it. And I have to admit, if I didn’t have this impairment, I don’t think I could ever sleep in the same bed as my fiancé without screaming or having to wear ear plugs to block out his loud snoring. Sometimes this crazy weather that we have, drives everyone to have such restless sleeps, well not me, I think I sleep like a baby. No disruptions at all, it’s amazing.