Emily and Ella

For some, the exact day, minute, and hour can be pinpointed as the moment everything changed. For me, it was more like an hourglass. My hearing slowly deteriorated through the years.

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For some, the exact day, minute, and hour can be pinpointed as the moment everything changed. For me, it was more like an hourglass. My hearing slowly deteriorated through the years.
Each moment became harder than the next and continued to be this way for the next two decades. I was just a kid when the hourglass was flipped and the countdown towards deafness began.
For years after it started, I didn’t even realize that what was happening was hearing loss. I had wrongfully assumed that hearing loss is only about volume. I had naively thought that hearing loss only happens with aging.

However, it was the clarity of words I was having issues with. I could hear my teacher talking, but somewhere between my ear and my brain the words would get lost.
I could hear the voice, but not the message. Without having a diagnosis, I heartbreakingly began to believe that I wasn’t smart.

I truly thought that if I could concentrate harder, the words would make sense again.

I didn’t want others to see that I seemed incapable, so I worked tirelessly to compensate for the loss during social interactions.

Despite this, lip-reading isn’t always possible and definitely not easy. The hearing world is saturated with cashiers who speak to you while never lifting their face up when counting your change. I would pretend to know what their saying and found I could reply with a short, non-personal, phrase and they would never realize I was severely hard of hearing.

I lived my days not understanding most of what was said to me and exhausted from picking up the small details that I could. Scared, lonely, isolated, and detached are too simple of words to describe what I was going through. Even writing them now, they look flat and harmless on the page. However, these descriptive words are powerful with deep rooted side effects and defense mechanisms. I was terrified to give opinions, jump into a conversation, or make eye contact for fear I’d mishear or reply incorrectly.

My parents didn’t seem to notice I was struggling. My teachers never caught on that I wasn’t understanding them, despite my plummeting grades. My peers thought I was just quiet and a little strange. As for me, I was truly convinced that there had to be something very wrong with my brain.

After high school, the volume part of the hearing loss became noticeable to others.

Despite the exhausting effort for me to continue to compensate, it couldn’t be done.

I got an official diagnosis, and at first it seemed too simple. Hearing loss? I was told I should get hearing aids and sent on my way. I thought that it was going to fix everything!
But it didn’t because of the clarity issues. I was back to hearing sounds but unable to make any sense of them.

Without knowing what else to do, I spent the next 10 years, raising my two kids as a single mom, and using tedious amount of effort to try and keep up with them as well as the hearing world.
At 3 years old, my daughter Ella was also diagnosed. I kept my composure until I put her to bed that night and then cried myself to sleep. After several appointments, we came home, and her little ears now held these great big pink hearing aids.

For the first time, I became brave enough to ask the questions that I had been too afraid to ask for myself There is power in knowledge and I was determined for things
to be different for her than they had been for me.

The most significant difference between Ella’s journey and mine was the introduction of resources. I had never taken advantage of them, didn’t know they existed and have never had anyone to advocate for me or teach me to advocate for myself.

With Ella, we took every resource available and chased after it. These resources have given her the confidence to explain to others how they should speak to her so that she can understand and led her to meet other kids with hearing loss.

Last year, I decided to check into resources for myself and it led me to having the cochlear implant surgery. This surgery did not cure me of hearing loss, but it allows me to navigate the hearing world without feeling lost and disconnected.

Society hints that hearing loss should be secretive. The advertisements for hearing aids claim to be small and discreet. The color choices blend in with your hair. The infamous tagline is that “no one will even notice them.”

But it took a kid to teach me that they should be pink, or purple, or blue. Ella and I have a special connection because of our hearing loss. I understand her tired eyes and headache brain at the end of every day.

I understand the lost look on her face when the words aren’t making sense. I relate to the disappointment when she’s missed the joke causing the room to laugh.  Yet, with pride, she often says, “Me and you! We’re the same!”  the part I had once hated about myself  became the part I most admired about my daughter.