I've never really thought about it, but I have a disability. I'm hard of hearing. I have nerve deafness and my hearing is only about forty percent of what everyone else hears. Approximately 36 million Americans suffer some degree of hearing loss. Mine has been since birth.
I wear a hearing aid, which helps tremendously. Actually I have two hearing aids, but one is almost always in need of repair. I can usually only afford to have one going at a time. When one is starting to go out, I quickly get the other one repaired. So I'm not without. Repairs usually cost between $250 to $300 a shot. One day, when I have an extra $500 I'll have both working. And guess what? Most insurance companies don't cover the cost of hearing aids or repairs. With the average hearing aid costing $2500 a piece, that's a lot of cash to put out over the years. My insurance company will pay for me to have an abortion or get Viagra, but hearing isn't as important apparently. Oops. That rant is for another day.
Today I find myself with neither hearing aid working. One is in for repairs, which is why I decided this would be a good time to write about it.
Like all of our senses, I think we tend to take them for granted until we don't have them or they're temporarily blocked. I started thinking last night how my deafness has affected my life. How I've learned to adapt and where it's held me back.
The first thing I will tell you is that not being able to hear is lonely. I was a loner as a kid. Not because I didn't like other people, but because I couldn't really connect with them. I didn't get my first hearing aid until I was fifteen. Before that, and even now, it was usually easier to be alone than to continuously ask someone to repeat something, or say "huh" or pretend I heard them. You'd be amazed at what I've pretended to hear over the years. That's probably why I'm an actor.
I also found out at an early age that people don't have a lot of patience for people who have difficulty hearing. They think just by yelling, or moving their mouths in an exaggerated way they are helping the person who cannot hear. Actually they're just embarrassing him or her and themselves.
I know hearing loss can seem funny at times. Hell, I even joke about it. One of the things we do to adapt is we put sentences together like puzzles. We usually don't hear every word, depending on the tone, articulation, etc, so we match what we hear to what we usually hear or what would make sense in that context. It's not always accurate and that's when it usually makes for a great laugh.
I'll pick on a friend of mine to see if she reads my blog. She told a story once of her father, who is hard of hearing, and a laugh the family had over his misunderstanding. My friend had a cold or something and her mom said, "You should go to the doctor to get some medicine." Her dad heard, "You should go to the doctor to get a Mexican." Her father, in all seriousness asked, "What does she need a Mexican for?"
I 'm sure my family has many of those gaffes I made to share as well. My desire to make people laugh was born from that I'm sure. Never mind they were laughing at me, not with me, but whatever.
I don't know if my hearing loss has ever really held me back, other than not being able to play a musical instrument or sing, I don't think my life would be all that different than it is now.
When I can't hear, I still get lonely. I also tend to isolate. It's not a lot of fun being around people when you can't hear them. So I'm lonely and I write. That's what I do. I guess perhaps it has molded me into who I am after all. A lonely writer who acts and likes to make people laugh. I wouldn't change that. It seems to me there's a lot out there in the world that's just noise anyway.