Updated: Aug 2
Lately I've seen other children around me who are deaf/hard of hearing: toddlers, kids, teens... and I've realized that each age has something to overcome with their deafness. These young toddlers are getting used to wearing their hearing devices and recognizing that not everyone wears cochlear implants or hearing aids. Kids are faced with the endless series of questions from everyone around them, always feeling they have to take the time to answer questions and educate others. Teens are in this already awkward phase where differences are not something to take pride in, an age where conformity is at its peak.
I watch as kids go through these different phases thinking back on what it was like for me. As someone who experienced (and continues to experience) every phase of growing up with deafness, I realized a few things, perhaps things I wish I had known as a kid.
When someone asks you a question about your cochlear implants, answer it. Recognize you have the power right now, even as a six year old to educate society one person at a time. You have the power to be heard and there are people who want to hear you. You may not know what to say, and that's okay, simply say what you know.
You don't have to love your deafness every moment of every day and you don't need to hide those feelings. You aren't expected to be happy and positive about your deafness all the time. Looking back there were times that being deaf was hard, but I did everything I could to not let it show. Six year old me was sad that I couldn't hear in the water when I had pool parties with friends. Fifteen year old me struggled with having to get my left ear re-implanted. Twenty year old me had a hard time and felt all the emotions when I decided to abandon my CROS and go bilateral again. Deafness is not always a picture perfect reality, feel the feelings, they're all valid.
That said, realize that your deafness gives you so many advantages over hearing people! Find the positives and run with them. I love that I can stream music hands free via Bluetooth, that I can hear music with better quality than anyone else will ever know. I also love how I have the choice to take my ears off when I want to. I have the choice to sit in complete and utter silence, I have an easy way to recharge, to recover from overstimulation. Find the positives and embrace that your deafness is far superior than hearing!
To The Me That Existed In 2000, Kid, if only you knew. Your deafness will shape you into the best version of yourself. One day you'll realize it, that your deafness never defined you, but boy is it the root of all your compassion and love. Your deafness is something to be cherished, don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. Others will try to make you feel ashamed of your own deafness, take those feelings and use them as the fuel which educates others. You can't see it now, but in twenty years you'll look back and wish you were prouder of your deafness, that you had spoken up more, that you had laughed more at the silly commentary from others, that you had ignored the ones trying to convince you to do anything but love your deafness. Stand by the people who will fight for you and your deafness, then stand with them too. Lean on each other and build a community for all. Stand up tall, put your chin up, and put your ears out for all to see. Then use your voice to speak up. I'll be cheering you on from afar. I'll be standing by you long before you realize what's going on. From, The Me In 2022