The following a piece for our Recommended Read of the week: ‘”Hear” I am!!’ by Jennifer Beilis, a story about what it’s like to have hearing loss. And make sure to pick up a copy of her book: “Hear” I Am!!
Hearing loss can be an invisible condition. Many people are ashamed of having a hearing loss, asking for help, or being vain about wearing hearing aids or a cochlear implant. There are many levels of hearing loss ranging from heard of hearing, deaf and Deaf (culture).
Individuals may not be aware they have a hearing loss until others tell them or from a hearing test (audiogram). Audiologists fit patients with hearing aids, FM systems (help bring sounds closer to you) or a cochlear implant (this is done surgically and for people who have very little speech discrimination or hearing.) The provider will tell you which hearing aid, FM or cochlear implant to recommend, have tips for communicating with others and to see if your insurance will reimburse you for the equipment.
Some tips for people who are hard of hearing or late deafened could be implementing are: to make sure there is enough lighting (as people with a hearing loss lip-read or rely on facial expressions, sit close to the speaker, make sure to inform others to have your attention before speaking and in the same room as well. You can always say “I heard…) and repeat it to the speaker, ask for repeats, use a microphone or an FM if a large area. An FM can also be helpful or a tape recorder to replay the conversation later. I feel that it is always best to let the organizer, job or school/meeting to know you have a hearing loss and what will help you with your communication needs.
Deaf people have their own culture of using American Sign Language for communicating primarily. They do not focus on wanting to hear as the hard of hearing or late deafened culture. There are sign language interpreters to assist where needed in public places and it is always best to have this in place in advance if possible i.e. classes, meetings, jobs etc.
From a personal experience of having a hearing loss from moderate and now moderate to severe I utilize the FM with the hearing aids in professional situations. This has helped me tremendously to know what the speaker has just stated and it also eases your exhaustion level.
All of my life I was bullied by many people for having a hearing loss and I always felt alone and embarrassed. From the 7th grade on all the way to undergraduate school I did not use the hearing aids because of the ridicule. Looking back, when hearing loss was even more invisible I wish that I had the support and education that I now have.
Acceptance and knowledge is key no matter if you have a disability or not! I feel that informing people ahead of time or reminding others that I need their help to communicate efficiently at times will make the other person feel important and needed. In my future articles I will demonstrate on how to advocate for yourself on the job, in the classroom/special education team or your personal life!
I will be writing more articles on hearing loss, illnesses and other disabilities etc. shortly. I want to share on how I learned to accept my hearing loss and other disabilities through the knowledge and support of how to communicate with others efficiently in my personal life, education and employment. It is so crucial to learn how to advocate for yourself and others!
Jennifer Beilis is the author of “Hear” I Am!!. She is a Motivational and Disability Awareness Speaker in Monmouth/Ocean County New Jersey. You may contact her by email and please put Hear I Am in the subject line. Her book is sold online on her website www.heariamjennifer.com and can be found on Amazon.com