“What?” “Pardon?” “What was that?”
Ever get irritated with hearing variations of “what?” eleventy billion times a day? I know I get irritated with responding with said variations all day every day.
But that is part of my story.
You see, I am hearing impaired, and my everyday life offers me situations where I can’t hear. I need to ask people to repeat themselves either once or numerous times.
It can feel defeating at the best of times.
Now, being a hearing-impaired mother offers a certain layer only those with disabilities can truly understand. The anxiety brought forth from not being able to hear your child is like rubbing salt into a fresh wound.
The story of my hearing impairment begins at the young age of seven years old. My hearing loss isn’t anything biological, but rather I suffered from nerve damage with no known cause. Without the hardware, everyone around me sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher. So, I wear them, both with grace and with vanity.
But since becoming a parent, it’s been different. It’s been a struggle. My anxiety has pushed through to a new level, one I never knew could actually exist. For the first six months of my son’s life, I was plagued with worry.
I nervously kept my monitor’s sound on despite my husband having perfect hearing, and one hearing aid in at a time throughout the night, so that I wouldn’t miss a peep. My husband would tell me it wasn’t necessary, but I wouldn’t listen.
I had to hear my child no matter what.
The anxiety left me in constant worry that something will happen to my child, and I won’t hear him call for me. Me. Not my husband, me.
It’s one thing to not hear adults. It’s another to not hear your own child.
Sometimes I find myself lost in a cloud, wondering what I’m missing. I laugh late at jokes and I’m stuck feeling left out of the moment. I often miss witty comments and clever comebacks.
Car rides are full of frustrations on both sides, as my child wants to tell me about the amazing sports car that zoomed past us and all I can respond with is, “I said Mommy can’t hear you in the car!”
It’s defeating. It’s crushing. And it’s something I wish my child didn’t have to live with.
But he does, so here we are.
I’ve spent enough time in my life looking at my disability as life-infringing. But what if I flipped the script a bit? What if I turned this into a lesson for both of us?
Why does being hearing impaired have to be a negative black hole?
It doesn’t, and I won’t let it be.
I can take comfort in the fact that my son is learning. Learning how to be empathetic to those with disabilities. Learning a certain kind of patience, I only wish I had at his age.
He’s learning that there isn’t just one type of people; there are many. So many that the world is flooded with unique and magnificent differences.
While it’s not easy for his young seven years, my son is working on remembering that he needs to look at Mommy when he has something to say. That he needs to look me in the face so I can read his rambling lips to help me understand the madness spewing out of his mouth.
The global pandemic served him with a new kind of responsibility: being his mom’s ears. Because masks blocked my way to read lips, my son stepped in to help. Watching him grow that way made me proud. It made him proud.
Being a parent with hearing loss is frightening and confusing.
But I think it also gives my child something special and teaches him lessons he can take with him for the rest of his life.
I do the best I can because there isn’t any other choice, as I assume most people with a disability do. The reminder I give myself –- and to you –- is this: you are not your disability.
You are a person with a disability. Your disability does not define you. It makes you different. And different is good. Different is interesting. Different is okay.