When I became a parent, I was in denial about my hearing loss, even though it had started almost 10 years prior. I hid it from everyone except those closest to me. I learned this behavior from my father. He had hearing loss too, but never acknowledged it. We all knew — it is a very hard thing to hide — but it was never discussed. An unmentionable.
My family was not supportive of him. My mother would whisper to my sister and me behind his back, saying “Don’t worry, he can’t hear us.” Her attitude taught me that hearing loss was shameful and that my father should not expect any help from the family in dealing with it. I look back on this behavior with regret.
So when I began having trouble hearing as an adult, I was appalled and ashamed. I hid it the best I could, following in my father’s footsteps. When I finally broke down and got hearing aids, I remember my mother’s horror. “Do you really need to wear them?” she asked. Unfortunately, I did. I should not have been surprised by her lack of support since she treated my father’s hearing loss the same way, but her attitude reinforced my need to hide. This went on for many years.
But then I had children. Since my loss was genetic I worried that I may have passed it onto them, as my father had done to me. I could feel my children’s eyes on me, watching me. Every action, every word, every emotion was observed and assimilated into their view of the world. It was up to me what example to set. I refused to continue the cycle of contempt and shame.
I would not allow my children to see me denying my hearing loss or feeling embarrassed by it. I asked for quiet tables at restaurants or for someone to face me when they spoke or to repeat something I didn’t hear. Everyday I beat back the stigma of hearing loss in hopes of creating a better world for them, should they develop hearing issues later in life.
It wasn’t easy at first, but almost every time I revealed, someone would tell me about his or her personal struggles with hearing loss or that a close friend or family member had issues with hearing. I realized I was not alone and that I could make a difference for people like me.
I became a hearing health advocate, volunteering on the boards of two leading hearing loss organizations: Hearing Loss Association of America and Hearing Health Foundation. I also started to share my hearing loss story publicly, through writing and speaking.
And I changed my family dynamic. My hearing loss is not an unmentionable, but is a regular topic of discussion, just like what is for dinner. My children and I talk about how they can help me hear my best. I am confident they will be better prepared to cope with the ups and downs of hearing loss should they experience it themselves.
I’m not sure why my father felt the need to hide his hearing loss. Was he afraid we would not love him if he were not perfect? Acknowledging my weaknesses helps my children see that nobody’s life is perfect. We all have struggles, but if we work together with respect and love, we can overcome almost any challenge.
I stopped hiding my hearing loss for my children. I thank them for helping me become a stronger, braver, and more loving person, and for forcing me to embrace myself as I am.
Readers, do you still hide your hearing loss?
This post first appeared on Parent.co.
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8 thoughts on “I Stopped Hiding My Hearing Loss For My Kids”
This is wonderful. For many years, I, too, was in denial and was ashamed of my hearing loss.
When I started coming to grips with it…when I had some heart-to-heart discussions with my son, about the TRUTH, my changed behavior resulted in his changed behavior. He became more empathetic..compassionate and kind.
I had to step on the train, before I could expect anyone else to do so.
Bravo to you. You set a great example.
So do you! Thanks for sharing your story with us!
Brava for forging a more truthful way with your kids and those around you. Old School stigmas must be brought to the light – one cannot help the way they are, regardless of the handicap. There are ‘gifts in imperfection’ because no one is truly perfect. We need to stop pretending to be.
Well said. Thanks for your comment.
I used to not tell anyone that I didn’t hear. Even to my customers years ago. One day I failed to repair a piece of equipment the way he wanted me to. (I don’t remember what it was) When the customer found what that I didn’t do the job, he was mad. Then when he found out that I never really heard him, he became really mad. And rightfully so. One of the things he was telling in great anger was, I should tell people I don’t hear. I lost a good customer that day.
This was years ago and I never saw that guy since. I wish I can meet with him again so I can honestly thank him. Because I listened to him, and I now tell people I don’t hear. Life is a much easier now.
Great story. Thanks for sharing that.
Yes, I still hide it. I don’t want to, but I’m having a real struggle knowing how to comfortably identify as a person with hearing loss. Shamefully, I even hide it from my deaf and hoh students. 🙁
Maybe start with telling a stranger – someone on a plane or in a store. It gets easier every time. Good luck to you!