30, Mechanical Engineer
I was diagnosed at 8 years of age with a moderate to severe hearing loss. I had a late onset hearing loss, meaning I was not born deaf. There were mixed feelings about the diagnosis. On one hand, relief to finally work out what was ‘wrong’, but also sadness because our thoughts were confirmed. I have used hearing aids since diagnosis at 8 yrs and was recently implanted with a cochlear implant in my left ear and I love it. I’ve never used Auslan and have always identified as oral deaf.
I tried to masquerade as a hearing person for a long, long time. I never hid my hearing, but I would never aggressively advocate for support, even when I really should have. In my mid 20’s, I started volunteering with deaf support groups and I had a big confrontation with my deaf identity. I realised how much my deafness had formed my personality. Meeting other people who were deaf was a real game changer and they inspired me to be more upfront and advocate for support and consideration.
It helps as I get older, that I feel more secure about my whole identity, my life and my family. This provides a strong foundation for me to draw on when I have to make people aware of my disability. I am always grateful for my hearing loss. I think the best part about having a disability is the social ‘filter’. It is very simple. If someone has no interest in being friends with a deaf person, I have very little interest in their friendship either. My visible disability helps forge strong friendships with people who are patient and kind-hearted. It helps keep superficial people at arms length.
University is really hard for profoundly deaf people. I have never heard a lecture in my 5 years of study. As a result, I have had to self-teach a great deal. I’ve built up those skills really well and can teach myself anything now. In my day to day work as an engineer, this has proven an invaluable skill time and time again. In my teenage years, I projected all of my insecurities onto my deafness. Even the things that might have just been my (personal) problems, I assumed that they were ‘deaf’ problems. It was always difficult to socialise in groups. Luckily, as time goes on, cliché group conversations become less and less prevalent in life.
Sometimes I wonder how much ‘extra’ credit I should get for my life because I have done it all as a deaf person. Then I realise that this is a silly thought. No-one starts from the same position with the same advantages/disadvantages. How I feel, is the only metric that matters.