My experience as a hard of hearing high school student



Art work by Grace LeVeque

The best comparison I can make to being hard-of-hearing is diving underwater. You stand on the edge of the pool, the sounds of distant conversations and laughter fill your ears before you take the plunge, and the sounds are drowned out and muffled. The feeling of swimming to the bottom of the pool, basking in the quiet coolness. Then, when you make your way back to the surface the sound comes rushing back, sometimes overwhelmingly so. Without my hearing aids, I am at the bottom of that pool, in an isolated bubble away from the chaos of the people around me.

I was 12 when I found out that I was 60% deaf in my right ear, and 40% deaf in my left. With the diagnosis, the unexplainable became understood. The frustration I felt when I couldn’t understand people seemed to dissipate and a weight was lifted off of my shoulders.

In years prior, school life was horrible. I felt isolated from my peers and teachers. I specifically remember my 8th-grade year, in the months leading up to getting hearing aids. One of my teachers never believed that I was in fact hard of hearing. She was one of my mom’s old friends. Tall, with a low and almost raspy voice. She spoke quietly, and even from the front of the classroom, I had a hard time deciphering her instruction.

Nearly every day, after the class was excused to do the day’s assignments, I would approach her, asking if she could repeat herself to me, but a bit louder. She rarely obliged, and often instead looked down on me with a disapproving stare, saying that I “should have been paying attention.” The snide remarks continued for a while until one day I was met with no words. Following my pleads, she rolled her eyes and turned her heel, walking towards her desk. After that, I remember my mom coming to the school with medical documents, furious at my teacher. Needless to say, she repeated herself after that.

During that year, I underwent two surgeries. While they were not related to my deafness, they were supposed to help, at least a bit. The surgeries went well, with minimal complications, but my hearing was worse than before. Luckily, just a few months after my second operation, I was able to get hearing aids.

The moment I put them on, it was like the world came alive. I heard the cars driving by outside and the birds singing, so loud and clear that I thought they were in the same room. I couldn’t contain my excitement and my eyes bounced excitedly between my mom and the doctor. My mom’s eyes sparkled with fresh tears. I marveled at all the sounds I could hear and as I sat in the car, I rustled the instruction papers between my fingers, astonished by how loud the sounds were. I toyed with the box, opening and closing the lid to hear the crisp snap. I picked up some quarters and jingled them in my palm. We pulled out of the parking lot, music blasting, and got on the road. With the sun in my eyes, I realized that a whole new world had been opened for me. I felt like I had finally swum up to the surface from the bottom of the swimming pool. I took a deep breath and felt free.

Now, almost 4 years later, I feel much more independent than I did when I was younger. Of course, everyone in the deaf/hard of hearing community has a different experience- for me, I am so thrilled that I was able to get hearing aids. I can better enjoy things like music, one of my favorite things in the entire world. I can hear my baby cousin’s laughter and the joy in people’s voices. It may seem silly to others, but I feel as if I am experiencing the world from a whole different perspective.