There was a primary motivation for me beginning this blog, but there’s about 20 years of context that’s important to the story. Some of it is in the “About” section, but I didn’t want to cram 20 years of blab onto that page. (I’m already long winded. You will see in this post. But this blog would be inadequate without backstory.)
To lay the foundation:
I am currently 28 and have been hearing impaired for about 20 years. It began in 2nd grade, when a neighbor realized I missed my morning school bus. Not because I was running behind (which wouldn’t have been a huge surprise because mornings aren’t my thing now and they weren’t back then either), but because I missed all the cues. I didn’t hear them.
I had lost my hearing. Overnight. *poof* I had severe-profound sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear and moderate-severe loss in my right ear. Scans, bloodwork, and various medical inquisition came back clean with no cause identified. I never felt sick, suffered ear drum trauma, or had any symptoms leading up to this dramatic change.
Subsequently, I had ear tubes inserted (myringotomy), a renal biopsy, and a few other pokes and prods. The ear tubes naturally fall out as the ear drums heal and I remember one of them falling out on my desk in elementary school: a tiny, little purple thing. I didn’t feel it come out, more so saw it fall. I realized what it was, assessed it… and then just kind of went on about my business. Lol.
I was fit with a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid for my right ear. My left ear had such a high degree of loss that a traditional hearing aid was not powerful enough to aid it. I grew up relying wholly on my right ear for audio cues. I did miss a bit of school in between time and I remember seeing a ‘Get Well’ message for me on the board when I re-entered my 2nd grade classroom. There were days when I wasn’t up for taking on all that came with readjusting to school, but in the end, I transitioned back in.
In 3rd grade, I changed schools – more for academic reasons than medical. Initially, the shift was a challenge for me. But as a shy and introverted child before my hearing loss, I can’t give my hearing all of that credit. I started a Magnet school program and was in TAG (Talented and Gifted) classes. Independent lessons with a speech pathologist were part of my schedule for a year or so, but I was otherwise mixed in with the general classroom and student body. Eventually, I no longer needed to meet with the pathologist and carried on independently (with teacher’s understanding, of course). I sat towards the front of classrooms, etc. but I was a bit of a nerd anyhow so these were minimal adjustments. I did well.
Through elementary, middle, and high school, I maintained an active, if not ambitious, academic and social life. Honor Roll, dance, Girl Scouts, chorus, Black Saga… swim (didn’t do enough of this lol), karate, piano, clarinet (sucked at that one)… In middle school, I participated in a Project YES behind-the-scenes tour at Disney World. All with my hearing aid – except the water stuff, because they can’t get wet AT ALL. Anything aquatic meant removing them and relying on minimal residual hearing. I went on field trips, to summer and sleep-away camp, and then People to People Student Ambassador program on a trip to Europe at age 16 (marking the beginnings of a furious love for travel). It was around this time that I transitioned from BTE aids to in-the-canal (ITC). I performed at Disney World again with my high school dance company along with a trip to NYC (SO much more on their influence later – they need their own post). All with my hearing aid. Many of these trips were without parents, so independence was essential. I hung out, went to HS football games GO RAIDERS!, had a job and my first car in high school. All with my hearing aid.
I won’t say that I realize I was a bit different, but I wasn’t interested in being that attentive to it. After all, we’re all different and this dang sure isn’t the only quirk about me. Without my full comprehension at the time, my parents were also pointedly supporting a developing mindset: who says there have to be boundaries? Who says I “can’t” and why? #WhoGonCheckMeBoo?
I say this all to give perspective on two things: my story and possibility.
I went on to apply and be admitted to my first choice college, Syracuse University #OrangeNation. I studied abroad for a semester in London and did another 3 years of dance. I was a tour guide and ambassador for my undergrad program, picked up a minor and additional concentration, interned in NYC… made friends & lifelong memories… graduated Magna Cum Laude, etc. etc. All with my hearing aid.
Post-college, I continued to develop two of my passions: design & youth engagement. I’ve committed a great deal to both – transitioning a passion in design into an entrepreneurial venture while also working with youth. Travel continued (14 countries and I need more!). Life continued.
This was all not without a hitch. With any journey come obstacles. There were a few hearing hiccups in there: a moderate one in high school, a few minors ones spotted about, and then those times when my hearing aid malfunctioned… or the time when I was in Spain and ran out of hearing aid batteries (and can’t speak Spanish *facepalm*… I did end up finding some at the farmacia, though). *Note to self: make another post about these*
In retrospect, these 20 years were building blocks; a foundation for what I was to experience in 2016. That’s when I lost my hearing the second time… on the day before Christmas.