The Gift of Silence in a Loud World MAG

May 16, 2017
By Celion BRONZE, Belmont, California
Celion BRONZE, Belmont, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

“Who’d you put a plane on? Not the exper test? Most of my time is devoted to donut two and you blung grayed it! I have a total -- shush -- of 1500 hours of sleep.”


This sounds like a horrible (and entertaining) subtitle service. But as a student with hearing aids, this is a part of my life.


Now, don’t get me wrong. This inconvenience can be hilarious. I usually play it off with a laugh and a joke, and the conversation carries on. Sometimes, I even repeat the misheard statement back on purpose, because humor is preferable to awkwardly asking, “What?”


Humor, however, lasts only a short while.


I have bilateral hearing loss, which means that I have hearing loss in both ears. I wear a hearing aid in my right ear, and my left ear’s pretty much hopeless. I’ve adjusted -- when I’m with people, I tend to stay on their left side.


I know that having hearing loss doesn’t seem like a situation someone would want to be in.


Hearing is tiring. It’s not just physical. It’s also mental.


I miss a lot of what’s going on around me -- the jokes in class, the YouTube videos that don’t have subtitles, the conversations between my friends, and anything involving the use of voice. Sometimes I can’t even hear someone talking right next to me.


And because I can’t hear it, I don’t know what I’m missing. I just know that I’m missing out. And to avoid missing even more, I have to put in extra work and devote all my attention to what someone’s saying.
Having a disability -- I have yet to come to terms with that word -- means that I often fall into a hole of resentment.


Sometimes I wonder, why me? What happened to that five-year-old kid that everyone loved because she was so outgoing? Even the big fifth-graders would hold her hand and laugh with her. Other kids didn’t really care that much about hearing loss, as long as you were fun, nice and good at running.


What happened to that kid before insecurities took ahold of her?


I could go on laying out my grievances. I could let out that pent-up anger and resentment.


But what I’ve learned is that when I fall through that hole of resentment for the umpteenth time, I’m not getting better.


Every moment, I’m learning how to deal with my hearing loss not by crying, but by speaking. By listening. By acting. If I want people to look past my disability, then I need to look past it first. I need to be that cheesy voice in my head and say, “Be positive!”


There are so many benefits that come with the detriments -- incredibly fast reading skills, lip reading abilities that allow for some entertainment and eavesdropping, friends who stay by me, the ability to empathize, and not taking communication for granted.


In addition, I’ve had so much help in my education system. My speech therapists helped me hear and say my s’s and f’s right, my audiologists fitted my hearing aids and offered counsel, the school administration met with me, and all my incredible teachers were there, day in and day out.


Last year, there was the National Spanish Exam with an audio portion -- the bane of my existence. You know, the type with headphones and multiple-choice answers.


Then my Spanish teacher swooped in. She was the one who contacted the organization and set me up with a Special Ed teacher. A classmate of mine and her mother went beyond the call of duty and transcribed two entire exam sets of audio so that I could practice. That was amazing, and it proved that there’s always a way to deal with everything. It just takes effort.


So I work with my hearing aids and I enjoy the adjustments that I’ve been able to make over these 15 years. Hearing is exhausting, but it’s so worth it. It’s taught me how valuable communication is and has forced me beyond my comfort zone. I found out that I like to be uncomfortable, and having hearing aids gives me more ways to be in that state.


To know that I’m not alone and that there’s a support system is incredibly uplifting. My family and friends remain supportive. My sister’s a Speech and Hearing Sciences major in college. I don’t know if that was partially because of me, but that surprised me. She told me that she was able to get an inside perspective and a head start on her major with me as her sister.


And having hearing aids?


It’s a privilege that I’m extremely lucky to have. Having hearing aids, which may seem like an obstacle, offers entirely new perspectives. And only I have that experience -- something that’s wholly mine -- including an appreciation for silence.


Yes, I have sound. But silence? It’s beautiful. It’s its own kind of experience. You don’t need to hear anything to understand silence. That’s how I sleep -- in silence. It would be bad news if a burglar broke in, but my dog will take care of that.


The best part is that my hearing loss gives me the ability to help others.


I’m planning to contact movie theaters and petition that they improve the subtitle services that they offer. That goes for airlines with in-flight entertainment too.


There is no one else who cares more about hearing loss than I do, and that’s because I know what it feels like. There are so many out there who are in need of hearing aids and don’t have them. Providing hearing aids for all is a lofty goal, but goals are there to be met.


I’m also on a personal mission. I haven’t met another high school student like me, but I will in the future. I’m going to find others in the community. There are people out there who have it harder than I do. I will learn sign language beyond the alphabet and communicate with the community that I have largely been absent from.
Needless to say, I wouldn’t give up my disability for anything. It’s a gift. It pushes me to be more active and has exposed me to numerous worlds. It’s helped shape me into the person I am today.


So I’m not going to lament my hearing loss, whatever caused it, or all the grievances that it gave me.
Instead, I will say thank you, hearing loss, for giving me so much.


The author's comments:

You are what makes yourself.

That’s something I had to learn. I’m still learning it.

Having hearing loss may seem like a curse, but honestly, it’s a gift. It pushed me to test my limits, see how far I could go, and disprove the stereotype that disabilities can limit. I joined journalism, interviewed complete strangers, became an editor. I started a club, made new friends, became a part of something bigger than myself, and found environmentalism to be an essential part of who I am. I made it my mission to push myself beyond my comfort zone.

But most of all, hearing loss gave me a voice.

Yes, it was something I was born with. But how I dealt with it — how my family, friends, and community dealt with it — is what made me into who I am today. Hearing loss forced me to grow up and face the world, even when it felt like it was against me. Because of it, I feel a bit stronger and more prepared to go after my dreams.

My role model, Nyle DiMarco, said: “Find your ability in your disability.” I remind myself of this every day, and I’m pushing myself to prove that I’m more than just my disability. I also hope that by doing so, I can help others realize what they’re capable of, just like what Nyle did for me.

So, I want to remind people out there: you can do it. No matter what your circumstances you were born with, you can do it. Push yourself, laugh, cry, discover and revel in what life has to offer. The sky’s not even the limit. Anytime you feel like you can’t do it, you can’t chase after that opportunity you want, stop and look in the mirror — really, really, really look — and see the possibilities in you. You, no matter what you may have thought, can do it.


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I loved this!


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