Living and working with a hearing impairment
I was 13 years old when I first got my hearing aids. I could no longer ignore the dominant hereditary aspect of this abnormality. I knew the journey I was going to start but I had no idea where I was going to end up. Even though I experienced the benefits, there were times I took out my hearing aids because I felt ashamed, I just wanted to feel ‘normal’.
Fighting to be ‘normal’
Just like the average student I worked through my classes, I later built a family and a career. I realized that my disability got worse with each year that passed, but I didn’t really accept it. I really wanted to be ‘normal’ and accepted for who I was. Despite my hearing impairment I was doing pretty well. I found ways to cope with and to compensate for the loss, even strangers didn’t notice that I dealt with severe hearing loss. And still, it remained, always there and never reversable, not even stable. I could deal with the jokes. “Easy for you that your crying baby doesn’t wake you up!’ or ‘I wish I could turn the sound off sometimes!’. Well, I could laugh about it, but sometimes it hurt. Because I missed spontaneous conversations between colleagues, or I hesitated making phone calls as to not be confronted with my disability. My self-confidence took some pretty big hits. But I fought back, unfortunately that cost me a lot of energy. In 2015 I got burned-out. At that time I didn’t link it to my fight, but there could be a connection.
A hard decision
In September 2017 I, once again, visited my ear doctor for a routine exam. I got confronted with the hard truth. ‘How could I function with an advanced disability like mine?. I felt that I was doing alright, although my doctor thought it must be exhausting to keep myself going in the hearing world. After that conversation and a second opinion I had a hard decision to make. I really had to consider a cochlear implant, if I wanted to put to little hearing I had left to good use in my revalidation. After a whole lot of tears and feelings of powerlessness I made a decision. I was only 41 and had still so much to look forward to. I decided to put myself on the map again and go confidently in that direction. In my private life and at work I am constantly surrounded by human contact. It’s these contacts that give meaning to my life and where I can use my talents. So this had to work, luckily I could count on my environment to support me.
Ready for the future
Since June 2018 I’m moving through the world with technology in my head, confident and hopeful for the future. Supported by my family, my speech therapists and my colleagues, I returned to work after 2 weeks of leave. The revalidation is going well, although it is really hard and confronting. In the beginning I struggled with simple exercises like understanding the days of the week or the months of the year. Luckily right now things are totally different.
Today, 10 months past my operation date, I look back at a hard and successful period. I regained tons of quality of life, I didn’t even know I lost in the first place. I’m regaining my self-confidence. I’m looking forward to raising my energy levels as well. What I used to lose to compensate, I transformed into power for rehabilitation. I’m not there yet, and on my way!
A disability doesn’t has to be an end. Focus on what you can do, find support, help and counselling. You are who you are, and that is more than good enough.