It all starts somewhere, and as time goes on, it gets worse and worse. And yet, because time is slow, life is busy and as humans, we are engineered to adapt and evolve quickly, the continuous decline goes on almost completely unnoticed.
Well at least, that’s what we all like to think.
For a while, this is true, and we can adapt subconsciously or consciously to the new challenges we face and tell ourselves there is no problem. Then it happens. The point of no return that was once so distant and afar is now staring us in the face. There is no going back. There is no more adapting, no more ignoring the truth. The time has come when our own bodies can no longer compensate for the hearing we have lost.
I waited 10 years before finally hitting the point of no return. Actually that’s not true, that point hit me hard maybe two years prior, yet I stubbornly refused to acknowledge or accept the fact. So I waited—stupidly—and did everything I could to avoid getting the help everyone else could see I so desperately needed.
But why did I wait? Why not give in and get help? It would have made life easier, better and probably more enjoyable. I wouldn’t have struggled to hear in classrooms during my senior year of college, and I wouldn’t have been exhausted after reporting on a single story. I waited because I could.
There are any number of excuses one can use to argue they don’t have a hearing loss or don’t’ need hearing aids. I’m pretty sure I had about 15 over time and a few I leaned on more than others.
- Blame Everyone Else: Because this is totally the right thing to do…not! I remember yelling at friends and family to stop mumbling or speaking so fast. In reality, they were speaking clearly and my ears were missing consonants and sounds.
- It’s Too Loud to Hear: Music, wind, more than 20 people around…you name it; I used it as a way to excuse my inability to hear. It wasn’t me, I would say, the (insert loud or annoying noise of choice) makes it impossible to hear.
- She Has an Accent: I had a teacher my junior year who was from China, and when she taught I couldn’t hear or understand anything! Her accent and quick tongue made it impossible to get more than 25 percent of a day’s lesson, and eventually I was so defeated and frustrated that I decided to teach myself. I stopped going to class except for quizzes and exams, missing important discussions, notes, guest speakers and more. Let’s just say I failed the class, and for someone who has always gotten “A’s” and has always taken AP classes and honors, it wasn’t a good feeling.
- I Have a Cold: Oh this was my ultimate favorite excuse. In my family, sinus infections, colds and allergies are a genetic trait much like our family’s tendency to always have blue eyes. And when we get any of those three physical issues, our noses clog up, our ears stuff up and everything we say echoes and everything we hear is muffled. It wasn’t my hearing that was the issue, I’d say, I’m just stuffed up. It’ll get better when I feel better. It didn’t.
I had more excuses including blaming facial hair, echoing architectural elements, distorted microphone effects, blaming the sounds of city traffic or lying that a phone call was dropping just so I didn’t have to deal with not hearing 100 percent of the conversation. “What?” “Huh?” “Excuse me?” were the three questions I had come to hate yet used incessantly.
But the big reason I waited so long wasn’t my excuses or me. When you are growing up, you want to be right, independent and self-sufficient. I didn’t want my parents’ help or input. I wanted to be my own person. I thought I knew my body best, so when they pushed me to see an audiologist, to get tested, to consider hearing aids, I did the only reasonable thing any young adult would do. I rebelled and refused.
They pushed. I pulled away. And the more they talked about, the more adamant I became about not having a problem. It goes worse when my closest friends began to do the same thing. My best friend Laura would constantly tell me I couldn’t hear her, would tell me to get help, that I needed hearing aids and would even go so far as to drunkenly share my hearing disability with random strangers at parties. (More often than not the ones I was flirting with).
It’s not their fault, that’s not what I’m saying. But the point is that for me, my “advocates” as others may call them, pushed me to wait. It was of course my stubbornness as well, but instead of allowing me to accept the problem on my own, they pushed and hammered me down with “hearing loss” and “hearing aids” on a weekly basis, so much so that I began to automatically mute those two phrases if the started to come out of anyone’s mouth. They didn’t talk with me or give me time, but talked at me and tried to rush me.
Maybe I would’ve gotten help earlier if they had been more patient, before the point of no return I mean. If they had perhaps spent a day in my shoes, experienced what it was like to struggle with what should be an easy and innate capability, and then perhaps they wouldn’t have been so rash to force a plan of help. And if they had listened, researched and learned from me and from others, they would’ve found that hearing loss isn’t like eyesight. It cannot be fixed with an item that is now more fashion accessory than assistive device. It requires something that has up until now been associated with old age and infirmity.
Excuses are easy to make up, but they also reach a point at which they aren’t true. I hit that point over 8 years ago, yet I waited two more to get help. I waited because everyone pushed and shoved. The point? It isn’t just the person with hearing loss that is involved, it’s everyone around them, and they have just as much, if not more, influence than the one with the problem.
The old “addiction” adage applies here: The first step to fixing a problem is accepting you have one. But only I could accept the problem, only I could fix it. It had to be me, on my own time. And if they’d talked with me, helped me to learn and hadn’t pushed or shoved, then maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have waited 10 years and been left with over 80% hearing loss.
Last modified: May 28, 2015