Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Growing up with hearing aids

Heres something different - Not your expected beauty or fashion post, but instead something a little more personal.



I don’t think anybody actually went out of their way to bully me during my school years – But I was taunted for several petty reasons, one of them being that I wore hearing aids. This reason was particularly a problem between the ages of around 9 and 15. Because of course, hearing aids are only for the elderly, and kids will latch onto anything and everything to use against another innocent person.

If I wasn’t being picked on, it was the obvious curiosity and a chance to seemingly patronise me that drove me mad. This was made a million times worse by my school and the evil lady from the hospital that used to ‘pop in’ every few months to make sure I was wearing my hearing aids.

In an effort for me to get over my refusal to wear them (because I just wanted to blend in and not be noticed) – They planned an hour long class, basically to break the ice, tell everyone that I wore hearing aids, and encouraged my peers to check that I was wearing them regularly. And from then on I felt like the majority of the school was mothering me. I’m sure it was an innocent attempt to familiarise everyone with hearing aids so it wasn’t such a big deal, but it really didn’t work out that way. To me, it was a really big deal.


Although I’ve never wanted to be the same as everyone else, I just wanted to blend in. I wanted to be normal, and nobody seemed to understand why I didn’t already feel it. My long hair got caught in them constantly, I felt like they made my ears stick out, they were uncomfortable and well, I just didn’t want anything that made me stand out from the rest. I was incredibly self-conscious. My mum would reassure me, tell me she knew exactly how it felt because she’s always worn glasses and got called ‘four-eyes’ at school. It didn’t help. I knew about 10 people at school that wore glasses, and even if they were picked on for it, at least they weren’t the only ones walking around with glasses and they weren’t meant to be exclusive to ‘grannys.’ That was my logic. I was young and incredibly na├»ve.

I would never tell anybody about my hearing impediment. To me, it didn’t exist, so why would I? I’d get the occasional reminder from my parents and teachers, and especially the evil lady from the hospital who took me out of lessons and took me up to the special needs department to remind me of the importance of wearing my hearing aids. ‘What? I have special needs? I don’t want special needs, there nothing wrong with me, I’m normal!’ My words flew past her ears as hers flew past mine. I used to dread her visits so much – In fact I saw her last year whilst on a placement in a Paediatric centre and my heart raced. Even now. 

I knew there were things I’d missed. Whilst I had friends, I’d missed out on making friends with some people because the effort taken to hear their quiet voices made me uncomfortable, the obvious confusion in lessons and so on. I used to avoid group sleepovers because I couldn't join in the conversations in the dark. I’d not let on to any of this – I’d not quite catch what was said to me but I’d pretend I had, because asking for a repetition 3 times onwards is embarrassing for everyone, making for a really rubbish conversation. But the thought of simply wearing my hearing aids or speaking up to correct all of this never once crossed my mind. 

Step forward to now. I’m 23 years old and I wear my hearing aids at work and University. For some reason I still can’t wear them all day every day. I like my natural hearing level, and I don’t like the amplified background noise that hearing aids bring. But I have confidence. I grew up, and now tell everyone when I’ve misheard them. Jokes are even made from time to time, and I can laugh at myself when I wonder for a split second why someone is asking for “Scarlett Johansson” instead of “Snow White and the Huntsmen” during my part time job at the cinema. 


And now, I look back and feel pity – Not long ago I saw an episode of ‘Embarassing Bodies,’ who surveyed the sound level of young people’s headphones and how the volume could affect their hearing. These young people went on to be told that they could one day be hearing aids as a result – ‘Which is incredibly embarrassing as they’re related to those 2 generations above you!’ I was appalled. Minors, I can forgive – But this was a Doctor. I hate that programme.  

To explain further, When I was 13 I had a very minor operation and my sister in law told the staff that I was hard of hearing, because she knew that I wouldn’t have said anything. Two assistants(?) jumped to their feet and felt it necessary to physically usher me into the next room whilst borderline shouting at me. 
A colleague at my previous work in a hospital exaggerated every single word she said to me despite me saying repeatedly that she didn’t need to. 
Another colleague thought it wouldn’t hurt to tell me that my hearing would probably get much worse, and one day I’d need a cochlea implant and a hearing dog. As much as I love dogs, I went to the toilet, cried, and got a hearing test the following week. My hearing is exactly the same as it’s always been – Phew. 
On a recent placement a Consultant approached me, asking if he could try my ‘fancy amplified stethoscope,’ and went on to say it was a stupid fad and I had no need to show off, despite explaining that actually, I can’t hear high frequency breath sounds on a standard one. 
All of these people were medical professionals, and I was embarrassed. For them.

I can tell you now. Hearing Aids are not embarrassing. What’s embarrassing is the approach to anything remotely different or alien to ourselves and the majority. This is why people get bullied, and it’s something people around the world are dealing with, in a multitude of situations, every day. And me, well I just believed everyone and hid it all away...

Well, I’m 23, and my approach has long changed and that’s what made the biggest difference. I still get the occasional “Ohhhh whoa, I didn’t know you wore hearing aids, why do you need them?” And yeah, I suppose it’s not the most usual thing despite there being thousands of under 30’s wearing hearing aids, show them my hearing aids and tell them that its nothing of any concern. I might blush a little, but I don’t mind for one minute. I’m confident.

Being hard of hearing is such a minor hiccup in life and I’m lucky for everything I have, but because I went through tribulations during my younger years for something so incredibly stupid, I feel that I’ve grabbed a few positives along the way. Why shouldn’t having a hearing impediment be a good thing..?
For example, when my patients are embarrassed about using crutches or any aids because, although they'll help, the mental downgrading that comes with it is too much to bear – I feel like I have a basic emotional understanding, though the situation may vary completely. I think I notice the finer things with my patients (the amount of hearing aids I’ve had to put in and batteries I’ve changed for others), and I spend longer letting them open up rather than making assumptions. Also, I always take great care to make sure I never lose anything important – Because I’ll always remember how mad my mum was and the rush involved when I lost my hearing aids, on the day of moving 300 miles away when I was 8 years old. I’ll never bully another person, because I know how it feels to be patronised and taunted for something beyond your control.

I’m lucky enough to only be slightly hard of hearing – I can still hear birds tweet and tree’s rustle, but you know those annoying ticking clocks, noisy neighbours, traffic outside, shuffling shoes? Not so much of a problem for me. Do you know what it’s like to experience blissful silence? All I have to do is take out my hearing aids and those annoying little sounds completely disappear. 

I’m not sure what my message is here, but I suppose things like this; they shouldn’t be a taboo. Ask about them, talk about them, hold your head high and be proud – Because, what’s the other option? The mind is such a powerful thing, and it is possible to shape your outlook on life.  

S xx


46 comments:

  1. Wow this post really made me think. Its never occurred to me before how isolating an object as small as a Hearing Aid could be. Growing up my sister learned Sign Language fluently, consequently she had a number of friends that were deaf. Only 1 I can remember wore a hearing aid, but it was such a part of her as a person I never gave it much thought. Kudos to you for standing up for yourself to those with misconceptions about people that utilize them. Double kudos for being able to write about it so powerfully and positively!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't it funny? Its nothing, it IS such a small part of me - Now! Back then I was a young girl who started puberty before everyone else at school and was concious of how I looked but didn't wear make up or know what to do with my hair and all that, I was pretty dull and that was fine with me, haha. I'm sure that really, desite being picked on a bit, it was still such a small part of me, but because it hurt it just carried on!

      Thank you :) x

      Delete
  2. I kinda know how you feel. Not massively but... I'm 20. I have to use a walking stick and have for years. The looks and remarks I get are so upsetting at times yet some people are nice when they know why. The occassional person asks me why I have one. But a lot then start treating me differently, like a major invalid. Part of me is dreading getting me wheelchair... Which reminds me, I forgot the damn form *mumbles to self*

    ReplyDelete
  3. oh Sarah, you are so cool. I've always struggled with my hearing. Conversations are always tough going for me, especially with background noise and i've never sought to do anything about it. I guess I've been too embarassed to make a fuss.
    Children can be so cruel.
    Thanks for sharing this post, i really appreciate you writing about your experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha, get it sorted out! I didn't really have the choice - I was 4 when I was first found out, and I didn't do ANYTHING after the evil lady stopped bugging me as I reached 16 years old, woop! Its only when I started working in a hospital I decided I needed to take responsibility and stop being so selfish as it could risk someone elses health! (Plus, me with no hearing aids and someone else with no hearing aids trying to talk is a nightmare waiting to happen)

      Thanks Sophie :) x

      Delete
  4. i'm pleased you wrote this post. it does raise awareness of it, and it also shows that it's not only for peopke who are 86 with hearing aids. it happens to all of us. and it isn't uncool at all. well done you lady xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Its the same for so many things - If I had a pound for every rugby player I've seen refuse to use a walking frame for even one day because its associated with their nan... Whats wrong with biddies anyway?! <3

      Delete
  5. I actually didn't know about your hearing until a few years ago when you mentioned it on a post elsewhere.

    I think you were probably about sixteen when I first met you and my impressions were that you were very aloof and not easy to get to know, in hindsight I now realise you were having to struggle to hear and focused on an individual so unable to join in as much with the whole group. I'd never have expected back then that you'd be one of the few people I was still friends with years later! Glad we are too, it's been fun to see you grow up over the years and see what a super lady you've turned into.

    I think it's good to share your experiences and potentially encourage others to not worry so much about the hearing aids. From my own experiences I've never noticed them on people until they've made it obvious by fiddling (and doing that eeeeeeeeeeeee noise), and when I do it makes no difference except I'll make a little more effort to face people and speak clearly.

    You're right about the mental downgrading, I have to use a stick on bad days, I also have a fairly horrible birthmark. I think eventually you do reach a point though where you accept that it's just a part of you and it's doesn't make you less or more, just you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, that was me. I'd much rather have been a recluse than try and get involved in group discussions because it was so much effort and I was afraid of looking like an idiot. I thought about this the other day in the staff room at work - There was a lot of us in there talking about a new couple and I was struggling to keep up. Everyone was laughing at how behind I was and how everything seemed to go over my head with my attempts to redeem information, but I'd rather that, because I spoke up and I was "GUYS, WHATS GOING ON who are you TALKING ABOUT TELL ME!?" because I'm actually a part of the world. And I don't mind people having a laugh at that expense because I'll laugh too. The outcome of that is that I look ditsy half the time (I only have one hearing aid at the moment, can't afford to get the other one fixed)!

      Its strange how we've kept in touch eh? I do love it though, you'll have to come to a show again one time and I'll do the same! I might crew again, argh!

      Thank you El, means a lot x

      Delete
  6. It was lovely to read this. It is almost exactly my experience too, but I made the decision to stop wearing my hearing aids at about 13. I only got them back in 2008 when it became strictly necessary. The experience is so different. I still get a lot of questions and I still get annoyed when people are inconsiderate. But I am so lucky. As much as hearing impairment has been a disadvantage, it's been a blessing too. I have a great grasp on body language that allows me to be empathetic and I have such a thirst for knowledge that I developed out of necessity for fear of not wanting to be left behind.
    I love my aids now. But I'll just as happily not wear them everyday. I'll lip read those I care about and get to shut out the rest of the world. Bliss.

    I think, at almost 24, I'm finally happy to accept there won't be an improvement.

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was the same for me really - I never wore them at school - Only shoved them in quickly for the evil lady visits where I would lie about how much I'd been wearing them! I only started wearing them when I got a job in a hospital and decided to take responsibility and stop being selfish about it for the sake of others! I don't get too many questions about it these days - Theres even been times I've said it abruptly "Don't get mad at me, I can't hear you I'm a deafhead okay? Just say it again!" It lightens the situation and it neutralises any potential embarassment!

      And yes, IT IS A BLESSING TOO - For the reason you've highlighted too. :)

      Delete
  7. Wow. An amazing post.

    I grew up with hearing problems not the extent of needing a hearing aid but i had to have gromits in my ears, i couldnt get water in them and had to avoid loud noises at all costs and when i was 9 i had a hole in my ear drum - thankfully that healed over and ive not had problems with them so much.

    The way the doctors and such treated you is disgusting for people who are supposed to be the most understanding of these types of situations they should be ashamed of themselves.

    As for the children who taunted you, they can be so cruel but half of the time i think its down to lack of understanding - not that, that excuses anything.

    You're really brave for sharing your experiences :)
    Natalie xx
    youralmostalice.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That must've been a nightmare! Can't imagine having to be careful at bathtime at that age when splashing about is paramount!

      Their treatment wasn't the best no, but I supposes its naivity and has only been another positive for me because I know how not to behave in my career, phew!! And no its true about the bullying, children push away anything thats not familiar to them most of the time. I can't wait to teach my kids the way of the worlds haha.

      Thank you Natalie x

      Delete
  8. Thank you so much for sharing this. I suppose its just hard when you're younger to come to terms with anything you have that makes you different. And thank you also for mentioning the mental downgrading that comes with crutches/a chair. The amount of people that think I'm thick or talk to whoevers pushing about me is unbelievable! I guess it goes to show that deep down whatever the latest PC thing is people are a little freaked out by distance be they kids or adults and its up to us who have the differences to be confident in ourselves and ignore them/ pass it off as ignorance
    Maddy xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is - Not sure if its true to everyone but at that age I just wanted to feel normal and fit in a little bit - Then at least anything 'different' would be under my control!

      Unfortunately its true, although things are a lot better these days, (I truly believe) I do wonder how long it will be until we become truly open minded.. hmm! x

      Delete
  9. Sarah I have no words of wisdom on this really, but just wanted to say thank you for sharing this. I'm sorry to hear about your school experiences, but I'm glad you've been able to face up to this more recently. You're very sensible. :) X

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yeah, I'm definitely better for it these days so I'm glad really! Thank you for your kind words x

      Delete
  10. This is such a great post, thank you for sharing this :) I'm glad that you've found something positive from your experiences. Like you said, it's such a shame when people feel the need to treat someone like that just because they're a little bit different from what's considered to be 'normal'. But our differences are what make us interesting; life would be so boring if we were all the same xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It really is a shame, I'm not sure it'll ever stop though I think schools and whatnot are doing more to tackle it these days - I hope so anyway! And a very true statement from yourself! I love being a little different now - Because we all are! x

      Delete
  11. thanks for sharing this. Kids really do pick up on anything that makes people different- one of my old school friends is deaf and lip reads. It took me a while to get used to talking with him at first- I would feel self conscious that he wouldn't understand me and get I'd embarrassed with myself- but he was so cool about it and after a while it was a non-issue, I just had to remember to always look at him when talking to him and that he couldn't hear me when it was dark at night.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! It used to be this way for me too but fortunately I'm not deaf, I'm not sure I can imagine that but its good that you stuck by him! One of my best friends at school had a stammer, and together we were just hilarious "Erm, can you repeat that?" "Umm, no I can't actually" haha we got through it in the end! x

      Delete
  12. Sarah, you are a beautiful, intelligent and compassionate young lady. The evil in this world is ignorance.Thanks for a great post!

    ReplyDelete
  13. You are amazing, thank you for sharing your story. <3

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is such a wonderful post and I'm so glad you shared this story with us. I have no idea what your situation is like, although I do wear glasses/contacts which is a nightmare as a lifeguard working at a waterpark cause I have to decide whether to wear my contacts and risk wrecking them if I have to go in the pool or wear glasses and risk losing them and burning my eyes out, but I found your story so interesting and compelling.
    I look forward to more posts like this!

    Charlotte x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Charlotte. You know, I've no idea what my situation isn't like, because its always been like this - I know no different, but I'm quite happy haha - Just gotta take extra precautions at the same time. And hey, its easy to block out a moany boyfriend from time to time, wahoo!

      That must be awful! Have you had to choose between the two yet? Argh! x

      Delete
  15. really articulate and brave post. well done you! xx

    ReplyDelete
  16. Bloody hell I would have punched half your work by now! How rude, some people are so thoughtless ! Yeah school was a bitch, it must have been so hard carrying around your sercret and having to pretend. I'm so happy that now you can just be ( and pity the idiots that think you need help etc ..)
    When the kids are screaming their heads off, I also say 'I wish I was deaf' but really I shouldn't. One of my friends has hearing aids, and it's a struggle every day. It must get so, so frustrating. * feel free to punch me if you like. I think it's the talking down I can't stand, I get all the time with my dslexyica (I miss read signs etc). I'm so glad you have written this, it's easy to be little others my throw away comments. I'm happy that you have peace with it, I think it's great for any one else reading with hearing aids to know its normal. My friend joked ages ago if I could 'bling hers up', kids can be cruel but than you grow up and see that actual their just thick! Great post and yeah that embrassing bodies thing is just stupid, they give some girl who has hair loss same crazy advice! I loss hair too and I wanted to kick the tele! Aww good old aloepica (may have spelt that wrong) anyway loveage kitten, you rock xxxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha yeah they were a little strange - Some people just shouldn't be in healthcare - The clue is in the title eh? Lacking compassion left right and centre, pah! It was easy to be honest, because I just pushed it away and that was that, just REALLY annoying being prompted constantly, gah!

      Haha thats amazing - I think I'd probably say the same if I had screaming kids around. In fact theres a dog around here that barks all morning - I don't get too far off saying it! Besides, we say things all the time like that and its only a metaphor, you know you don't really mean it! :)
      It used to be frustrating but now its funny - If someone talks down to me I will actually speak up now and say "Well thanks but being hard of hearing doesn't mean I'm completely dumb so please don't talk to me like a child?" Thats usually all it takes, gained some assertiveness here, haha!

      Haha bling hers up - Do it! It could be a little tutorial! My mum used to bling mine up (seriously) to try and get me to wear them but I just liked the stickers! I have small in ear ones now so its not gonna happen!!

      Isn't it ridiculous? I think I've read about your alopecia before - You have such lovely hair though!! <3

      xx

      Delete
  17. Totally amazing post Sarah, and I'm so glad you wrote about your experiences with bullying and people's attitudes towards things they don't understand. It IS frustrating, and it IS wrong in some respects.

    What concerns me more is the attitudes of medical professionals. I've met great ones but in more recent years I have to say, I've felt belittled, disbelieved and to be generally an inconvenience to medics who I've been referred to for help. That it seems to be general practice in all aspects of their lives to have a closed minded and almost discriminatory sense of opinion on things is frankly, worrying.

    Well written, amazing post.

    P.S. I used to wear an eye patch as a kid. Wearing glasses (which I did and still do) is one thing- everybody knows someone who does, and almost everyone probably will need to at some stage, something- such as a hearing aid or an eye patch, where you're likely to be the only one, or it's something a child might have seen before, that's rubbish and kids are NASTY. There are also ways and means of educating children without singling people out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and your comment!

      I agree with you - Thats something that concerns me too - I've seen it myself negatively and positively - Like when people rush to help someone in a wheelchair when actually they've been in a wheelchair for 15 years, are perfectly capable of transferring themselves and have more upper body strength than you'll ever have, haha! I do think GP's are the worse - In my own opinion, not sure why?

      Ahh yes, I suppose an eye patch would be a similar thing! Were you taunted for that? I remember someone in year 3 having one and everyone poking fun at her for the few months she had it - gah!

      xx

      Delete
  18. I find your blog interesting =)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Lovely blog.

    My blog is having a Le Spec Giveaway

    petitesideofstyle.com

    ReplyDelete
  20. Wow amazing post! I found this so interesting as my boyfriend wears hearing aids too. He was born with a hearing impediment and has had to wear them his entire life. I know that in the first couple of years of secondary school he found it really hard being 'different' and the teachers made him wear a special headset in lessons which he hated. Kids are horrible, but in the end school was a really positive experience for him and people just accepted it and didn't define him by his hearing aids. I know a lot of hard of hearing teenagers unfortunately can't say the same thing. I once tried his hearing aid out haha so strange, I felt like the bionic woman! Such an inspiring post x

    http://just-a-thought-natalie.blogspot.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh - I've worn them from being around 4 years (Well actually, I haven't but you know what I mean, I was MEANT to haha)!

      That must've been really awkward, especially as a headset is so much more noticable and stands out. It definitely isn't a definition of a person unless they make it that way - Its really such a MINOR thing isn't it? I still feel like the bionic woman when I put mine in, I get too used to my hearing level with the radio and tele 'too loud' hahaha pshh!! ;)

      xx

      Delete
  21. This is a wonderfully inspiring post. Children, and clearly even trained professionals too, can be so insensitive. I'm shocked about the comments you received from people you've encountered in the medical profession! You seem like such a positive and happy person, sometimes it takes going through a hardship to ultimately become the best person you can be :) xxx

    ReplyDelete
  22. I'm glad I saw this post as I also wear hearing aids too! I know how you feel with the school visit from a woman from the hospital I hated that so much!! Lucky because im now in sixth form she has stopped coming to see me !! I remember when I first got them in primary school all of the kids kept coming up to me asking if I could hear them! so annoying. Most of the time I have them on me (but in my bag rather than wearing them) but tbh once i have got them on, after a while I don't event relise im wearing them its just sometimes I think I really don't want to wear them! But then I think its best to wear them as they are only there to help. Lucky my friends have been supportive, but I have had a few comments but I don't understand what the big deal is. When I was in primary I had Pink hearing aids!!! Which I did love ! made me want to wear them more! lol :) xx

    ReplyDelete
  23. I really enjoyed reading that post, it's really nice to actually hear someone speak up for once, and I am absolutely appealed by the medical professionals, you would have thought they'd have more tact than that!

    ReplyDelete
  24. This is such a good post :) I have had problems with my ears for years which makes my hearing sound like I'm underwater or have cotton balls stuffed in them-I'm so use to it now but every now and again they pop and I can hear better for a few seconds. I was also bullied throughout my school life not because of my hearing but because of me really-I even blogged about it. I supose that's why I like blogging you can just write about what you want *although it took me ages to be able to do it without feeling like I was going to get judged* Thanks for sharing

    Tanesha x
    www.tanesha-marie.blogspot.co.uk

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thankyou so much for sharing your story, it was really interesting and inspiring. I wore glasses all through primary school, and even though there were more kids wearing glasses my vision was so bad that I couldn't see at all without them. I had numerous tests and was very nervous about doing anything that might knock them off. It really helps me to hear about other people who had similar issues when children, and I'm really glad you can overcome the bullies and insensitivity to post this and inspire so many other people :)

    xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You helped me put a missing piece of the puzzle into place. THANK YOU!

      Delete
  26. Wow Sarah - I have known you for 9 years and I never knew you had hearing aids - I suppose it goes to show that we simply don't care about things like that as long as we are all happy and comfortable with each other.

    I'm even more proud of you than I was before!
    J xxx

    ReplyDelete
  27. A child who has a mild or moderate hearing loss has to deal with most of the problems of not hearing well, and is expected to cope. Some "rights" of deafness are conferred on the deafer people, and protected jealously. The focus of education and medical systems was fatuously unaware of the problems caused by even a slight plugged ear during childhood.



    Audiologist

    ReplyDelete
  28. This is a great post, I can't imagine what it would have been like going through school etc with hearing aids.
    I was in an accident about 3 years ago which caused some issues and as a result now wear hearing aids myself. Its pretty tough going from near perfect hearing to very little, its a total pain to be honest but I've learned to deal with it mostly.
    Loved reading this post xx

    ReplyDelete
  29. Being hard of hearing is such a minor hiccup in life and I’m lucky for everything I have. But lots of people who have face this problem, Hearing aids is make easy for him to hear. Find the Top Quality Low Cost Discount Hearing Aids for people those who are having hearing problem.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment, I love hearing your thoughts! Do feel free to contact me at fridayisforever@gmail.com xx