By Sophie-Marie Hazen, Montréal, Canada
My 20’s we probably the decade where I experienced the most change in my life, asked the most questions, and learned the most about myself. One of those areas of life was my hearing. When I was in my early 20’s, I noticed some symptoms that were related to hearing loss. So, I decided to do the right thing and go to my family doctor, and then to an audiologist for an audiogram. You’d think this is the point where I tell you that is when I discovered my hearing loss, but it is not. I passed that hearing test. At that point in my life, I did not practice self-advocacy, so when I had passed the test, I just accepted it. I decided it all must have been my imagination or something.
Now we fast forward to my late 20’s and I begin to notice certain symptoms again. By now I am more confident and self-aware, so I planned to do something about it; but it was not until I was 29 before I finally decided to see a doctor. I visited an ENT who then sends me to an audiologist. This is the moment that I was scared for. The last time I went they said nothing was wrong. Even though I knew things were different, and my symptoms were observable and frequent, I still had that same fear and trepidation.
The audiologist goes through the hearing test, which was a lot more extensive than the one I took nearly 8 years before, and about 45 minutes later sits down with me and tells me I have a hearing loss. It was that moment that I felt validation. My experiences were real, and it was not in my head. But it was also in that moment I also felt that things would be different for me. So, with that validation also came a new sense reality.
The reality that every day I have said and will continue to say, dozens of times, “what?” or “pardon?” or something in that vain. Every day I will mishear or misunderstand what somebody says to me, without fail. Every day that I will be trying to learn how to read lips so I can maybe patch things together from what I hear and what I read. Ultimately, it is the reality that I will be more reliant on people and technology, and that’s something I’m going to need to learn to do.
I grew up hearing, in a hearing world with hearing friends and family my whole life. I couldn’t be more lucky to have my Deaf Community to help me navigate this journey with me, and those HoH people in my life who understands the struggles. So, as I now navigate a world of in-betweens, I do so knowing that I have both the privilege and disadvantage of being constantly in the middle, never really belonging in either Hearing or Deaf. But considering all of these challenges, I also need to accept the fact that I am who I am, and I am part of a great community—two great communities. The Deaf Community, and the HoH Community.
I close this article with this quote from Marlee Matlin as Melody Bledsoe where her character expressed the idea that the term hearing loss suggest that we are somehow less than because of our deafened status, but really our communities, perspectives, and identity give us something to treasure, and that is Deaf Gain. As someone who moved from Hearing to Hard of Hearing, I will do all that I can to see life differently, and still be proud for who I am.