It sounds like I’m about to start a lecture or a rant but actually I’m going to talk about something which I very rarely speak of: my hearing loss.
Well, I am going to rant a tiny bit but we’ll get on to that in a minute.
I don’t often talk about the fact that I’m hard of hearing unless I know you very well or unless I need to. Once I know you well enough I might crack a few jokes about my lack of hearing but most of the time I tend to avoid the subject. I suspect this comes from the teenage embarrassment of never wanting to admit that I was a little different from my peers but it’s also mostly because of this:
I don’t consider my deafness as an important part of my identity.
That’s funny in a way because you could argue that my deafness is a huge part of my identity! I lost some of my hearing when I was only 4 years old, so for most of my life I’ve worn hearing aids and more recently a cochlear implant. It seems that most deaf/hard of hearing people decided to fully integrate themselves into the deaf community, whereas I always shied away from that. I still do, in all honesty.
If you asked me to describe myself to someone I didn’t know, I can list a lot of different things. I might tell you that I can read pretty fast or that I love photography, or maybe I’ll tell you about my 3 siblings that I adore and the fact that I can’t sing or act to save my life. But the one thing I wouldn’t mention would be my hearing, not because I’m ashamed or because I’m actively avoiding the topic but simply because I don’t see it as a vital part of me.
So, you can imagine how I might get annoyed at the fact that some people do see it. Most of the people who are guilty of doing this are some family members or old friends who haven’t seen me for a long time, but it seems that all they remember about me is the fact that I’m hard of hearing. And so they overcompensate for me, by over enunciating their words or by speaking louder than they were a minute ago to someone else. In fairness to them I know they think they’re helping me out but all I seem to want to do is tell them to speak normally to me, to just treat me as if you treated anyone else.
I still haven’t worked out how to say that politely. It’s hard when you know that people have good intentions but they don’t realise how patronising it is to talk to me as if I’m still six years old or as if I have no hearing left at all.
So, what is the point of this post? I suppose it’s me trying to be more open about the fact that this annoys me, and I suppose I’m trying to figure out a way to be more vocal about it. Sometimes explaining your feelings can lead to figuring out an answer.
Sometimes the way to start a movement is to just try.