I am hearing impaired.
I have less than 25 percent hearing in the left ear and the right ear is declining as well, though at a slower rate. I began losing my hearing at age 18, due to a congenital condition that was exacerbated by a massive ear infection.
I didn't acknowledge the loss until years later when I was at a family gathering and found myself answering questions that my cousin was not asking. My only clue? The look on his face when I gave him my replies.
It was after that gathering that I made my way to an audiologist to look into getting a hearing aid.
At this moment, I'm 52. When I began noticing my hearing loss, I was a young lady with a talent for singing and playing guitar. The first casualty of my condition was my desire to play. I lost the low register of my hearing and playing music became something that just frustrated me.
God has a twisted sense of humor.
I realize that other musicians, notably Beethoven, have overcome a hearing loss, but it sidelined me for many years, even after I got the hearing aid I needed. Just listening to people and all the noise around me after I could actually hear, was sometimes exhausting.
Aside from all that though, I'd like to address how people react to someone who cannot hear at a normal level, and perhaps some of you people out there who have perfect hearing will understand how frustrating it is to be on the receiving end of the unintentional hostility.
Deafness is not something you can see. It's not a huge gaping wound or an obviously amputated limb, but it is indeed a disability and it is one that deserves a bit more understanding than what I've experienced. I didn't choose to lose my hearing, so please don't treat me as if I'm inconveniencing you when I don't hear you correctly.
It's difficult for humans to disguise or hide their impatience or annoyance from me. I see it flash over their eyes just for that brief second when they realize I, or another hearing impaired individual requires them to slow down and speak to me, eyes on mine. I need to see your lips, I need to have the sound that comes out of you, come towards me, not away from me as you turn to do something else.
I've had days where I gave up and just stopped interacting with the world around me because I found it too tiring to explain myself with every transaction or meeting. Even my own son can't contain his annoyance at times with having to deal with my deafness. I've had to remind him a few times just what he's doing to me with his attitude and impatience.
My point here, after all that, is to ask those of you out there who have been blessed with perfect hearing, to protect it and enjoy it, and try to be more sympathetic to those who do not...and if you don't have perfect hearing and find yourself answering questions that no one is asking, then PLEASE, go get your hearing tested and get what you need. There is no reason not to. Vanity is not a valid excuse any longer.