Do I really dare to call it a handicap?
Is it even a handicap?
This will make people think of me differently. Is that what I want?
Why should I even want to put that label on myself?
I am after all generally happy, I pretty much love my life and don’t think about it THAT much myself.
All these things run through my mind every time I mention my hearing loss to anyone. It doesn’t even matter who it is. I am stubbornly fighting for it to not define me as a person.
And most of all: I do not want people around me to treat me any differently because of it.
Honestly, I have been worrying so much about how other people would perceive it, that I have managed to convince everyone around me, even my parents, that it does not affect me or my everyday life – in any way.
Which is, honestly, the biggest lie – ever.
And that is – to say it bluntly – incredibly stupid.
My hearing loss came out of the blue. I was 20 at the time, and working at a small bakery in my hometown. The doctors had no clue why it happened. They didn’t know how to fix it.
But said that there was a good chance it would return slowly the next 6 months.
It didn’t. I realized on a paradise-like beach on Gili T in Indonesia.
I would have to live with my hearing loss for the rest of my life.
And ever since I have made a great deal out of telling everyone that I am doing just fine – trying to convince them – and myself – that it has not changed ANYthing in my life.
But it did. And I think letting people now. And letting them take it into consideration when speaking to me, will make a great difference in my life.
So here goes
The 6 things I wish people knew about having a hearing loss
1. Social gatherings and parties are basically my worst nightmare
Parties, dinners and all types of large gatherings of people having fun and talking, are to me, one big mixture of everything that is difficult – while it is still one of my favourite things to do.
Everyone talks, laughs, there is music playing.
All the voices merge together, people speak louder to outshout each other.
And there I am.
In the middle of it all, having difficulties even just following the conversation with the person next to me.
And I hate it. I want to participate. I want to be funny and memorable. I want to be a part of it all.
But most of all I do not want people to perceive me as stupid, because I literally do not understand a word they are saying.
So I pretend that I am a part of the conversation.
Having to listen so intensely makes me tired. If there’s more than 5 people in a room I have to fight every minute of it. Which makes me and my brain tired.
It means that I have to take small pauses, make toilet breaks suspiciously long, take out my phone and just scroll through Instagram. Which I am aware seems incredibly rude. But I just need something that does not involve listening.
2. Meeting new people
It’s not nearly as fun as it used to be. Determining whether I should tell them about the hearing loss within the first seconds – or wait until that awkward last moment where they look furiously at me because I still didn’t hear what they said – after they have repeated it 5 times – is more difficult than you would think.
My hearing aids are very small, and people generally never notice them. I speak completely normal, and try to refrain from muttering the word “what” too much.
So other people have NO way of knowing what my problem is.
This means that my only option is opening my mouth and telling them.
But when? And how?
I still have no clue..
I need extra breaks.
I need breaks from people.
Breaks from listening.
Breaks from Life.
Which has been one of the hardest things to accept, because I generally like to live my life fast and busy. With a lot on my mind and a full schedule.
But I can’t anymore.
And if I have to do it for a few weeks, I can promise you, that these weeks will be followed by an entire week of coma. Of not being able to think. Of sleeping way too much. And staying in to watch Netflix.
4. The tinnitus
This is almost impossible to explain to people who do not have it themselves.
How do you explain that something as natural as silence has disappeared from your life?
And even when I try, people do not have an honest chance at imagining it.
A ringing tone that’s just… there… Every second of every minute of every hour of every day. Sounds horrible, right?
I am honestly fighting a daily battle with my tinnitus. I am doing my best to get to know it, to make sure that it stays at a low level, and does not become any louder.
But it’s never not there.
5. Having to ask people to repeat stuff…..
I know it all too well – when the person you’re talking to still can’t hear what you are saying after you have repeated it 3 times, it’s almost impossible not to roll your eyes at them.
I still do it, way too often.
Even though I know how bad it makes me feel when people do it to me.
This is the why I sometimes find it hard to ask people to repeat stuff.
Most of the time, if I don’t ask, and it means that I will not be able to understand the rest of our conversation.
Ultimately it almost always ends up in me giving a wrong answer or laughing in a hysterically high pitch to cover the fact that I have no idea what we’re talking about.
This often resolves in people thinking that I am basically unintelligent.
And I know I should just ask. But it kind of hurts every time.
6. How incredibly hard it is to be honest about it
Just rereading the points above makes me want to punch myself in the face. Hard.
It sounds so whiny.
I would much rather laugh it all off. Make a joke about it and move on.
But rereading it also makes me realize how much all of this is just in my head.
Being afraid of how other people might perceive my hearing loss, keeps me from handling it in the best way for my own sake.
So I guess I have to step up, and allow myself to be weak.
Allow myself to be honest.
And other people to judge me.