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“Stop interrupting! Before opening your mouth, see if the adults are in the middle of a conversation,” my dad reminded me for the hundredth time. What I couldn’t have articulated at the time was that I was too lazy to ‘watch’, and I couldn’t hear well enough not to. As far as I was concerned, nobody was talking. Later it became apparent that I could benefit from a hearing aid.
“Da octer ust call your nay.” My mom stood up and motioned to the audiologist. I looked back and mentally said goodbye to the centenarian I was sitting next to. I followed mom down the corridor. I felt out of place. Only old people have hearing loss.
Andrea, the audiologist, took out a purple hearing aid and adjusted it over my ear. I looked over at my mom just as the hearing aid turned on. My eyebrows shot up as I heard the loud static-y sound in my right ear.
“CAN YOU HEAR ME OK!!?” Andrea shouted.
“Yeah, it sounds…weird…but good. Like a radio or something.” Even my own voice sounded different.
“It’ll just take some time to get used to it,” she replied. She turned back to her computer and asked me a couple of questions before adjusting the hearing aid accordingly.
“Between the broken bones in her inner ear, the damage to the auditory nerve, and low performing eardrums,…” as Andrea and my mom spoke, I couldn’t pay attention. In amazement, I noticed the sharp sound of paper rustling and muted footsteps on the carpet outside the closed door. On the ride home, I could hear cars rushing by through the window. There were many new sounds I was unaccustomed to hearing.
Who knew leaves made sounds? I ran through piles of them on the way to school the next morning. My new sidekick worked furiously behind my ear to amplify all sounds regardless of their importance to me. When I reached the school, I pulled my bangs down a little further and attempted to hide my hearing aid. Despite knowing that I should wear my hearing aid at all times, I took it out between classes to carefully place it in the designated case and slide it into my uniform skirt pocket. During biology, I sat in the front of the class. Just as I was getting my notebook from my backpack, I noticed Joshua looking at me out of the corner of my eye.
“Ew. What’s that in your ear?” He grimaced. I hope he’s not talking to me. Maybe I’ll just pretend I didn’t hear him. Never mind, I definitely heard that.
The teacher began talking before I had a chance to come up with a witty response. The judgement of my peer left me in disbelief.
I later reflected on the irony of being able to hear both new and unwanted sounds. From here on out this would be my reality: my new ability comes with positives and negatives. Within everything I do, it is up to me to decide what matters most.
Wanting to be included motivated me to become more comfortable with myself, and I continued to strive for excellence in all areas of my life. Requiring a physical accommodation did not impair me, instead I reveled in the joy of being able to hear sounds I never knew existed. I became more aware of my surroundings, and I started to participate more in class. I became an advocate for myself through requesting accommodations. My newfound superpowers were being perfected.
That evening at dinner I didn’t interrupt. I felt included and content simply participating in the conversation between our five person family. The experience of getting a hearing aid would become an important, though not limiting, part of my identity. I still have conversations to participate in, new sounds to hear, and people to advocate for – starting with myself.
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