“Hearing loss is such an adventure,” a new acquaintance wrote to me not long ago.
This is one comment I’d never heard before.
Wow, I thought, she really has reached that elusive state of acceptance. Many people talk about the hearing loss “journey,” from denial to anger to bargaining to depression to acceptance.
But an adventure. That suggests exciting new opportunities and challenges.
My friend had had a severe drop in her hearing in her 30’s. “Many doors I had intended to open and travel through closed.” That happens to people with severe or sudden hearing loss. Career pathways can be blocked. If you always wanted to be a commercial airline pilot, that’s probably not going to happen. But most career and social obstacles simply have to be navigated in a more strategic way.
My friend also talked about the doors that opened because of her hearing loss. She became an active member of the Hearing Loss Association of America, HLAA (then called SHHH – Self Help for the Hard of Hearing). She met many new people, she became involved in advocacy to effect change, to ensure that the principles embodied in the American With Disabilities Act applied to people with hearing loss as well as to those with more obvious disabilities.
She traveled as part of her advocacy work, she educated people and shared information. She navigated the shoals of technology, she encountered stigma and by example helped defeat it. And of course she struggled to hear.
“To be honest,” she wrote, “my adventures with hearing loss have not all been enjoyable, however they have challenged me to learn things I would never have been interested in otherwise.”
In this holiday season, I want to celebrate the benefits that can come with disability, the intense satisfaction of overcoming obstacles, the sense of achievement that comes with learning about new technology, the gratification of helping to effect change for the good.
The hearing loss journey is an ongoing one. Hearing may continue to deteriorate but opportunities and technology continue to improve. The challenge to push yourself to try one more new device, to venture out to one more event, can sometimes seem overwhelming. But from now on, I’m going to think of it as an adventure.