I was not born hearing impaired. My mother always provided me with the same recollection in how I lost my hearing: I had middle ear infections, not unlike any other child. I did not respond to the antibiotics and the doctor simply said, “Give the meds time to work.” My mother was adamant that by the time I was taken to a specialist, it was too late. I suffered severe nerve damage and the hearing loss was irreversible.
I do not remember much about losing my hearing, aside from being squirted with the cool, slimy, Pepto-Bismal colored pink play-doh like material in my ears. The pink play-doh would form into my ear and ear canal to ensure a properly fitting ear mold which would attach to my hearing aid.
I do remember my parents being distraught as the specialist informed them both that I would likely never play sports, never play a musical instrument or enjoy music, and never live a fully functional, normal life.
Remember, it was 1978-1979 and times were very different. My maternal grandmother insisted to my mother than perhaps the right answer was institutionalization. There are days where I feel the need for a padded room at an institution but it has nothing to do with the amount of hearing that I do, or do not, have.
In recent years, I have determined that my mother’s version of events is not entirely accurate. Several doctors and specialists have questioned my medical history and my loss of hearing; however, it was not until I went to a new audiologist that she gave me the likely version of what happened to my ears.
It is not typical to suffer nerve damage due to a middle ear infection. I was floored to this possible un-truth from my mother, but have since realized that my mother had a mental illness that allowed her to create her own set of “truths”. My audiologist asked me if I ever suffered from high fevers as a young child and the light bulb turned on. YES! I had several febrile seizures as a young child, some that sent me to the hospital – so it appears far more likely that is the culprit behind my hearing loss.
Regardless, I focus back on the ignorant doctor(s) that doomed me to a life of no activities because I was now hearing impaired. These doctors recommended I go to a week-long “camp” with other hearing impaired children to learn to acclimate in my new world. Little did my parents know, it was a camp for children who were completely deaf and used only sign language to communicate to each other. I soon found myself in a middle world – I was not entirely of the hearing world, nor was I of the deaf world.I circle back repeatedly to the prognosis the doctors gave to me when I was five. I have come to realize that I do not like being told I cannot do something. Anything. By restricting my ability, you give me further ambition and drive to set out and accomplish whatever it is that you think I cannot do. I have traced this back to my five year old me.
I did play sports; all of them. I excelled at soccer and then running. I played the flute from elementary school until sophomore year in high school (when one time, at band camp, it was suddenly deemed uncool). I absolutely love music across any and all genres and I tend to blast my iPod at an unsafe decibel. I live a fairly functional and normal life, coupled with a healthy endurance of hearing impaired jokes at my expense (no, Cheryl, the “Wanna buy a duck” joke is still NOT funny).
I do not know sign language; only the swear words and the alphabet (thanks to my friend, Tara). I do read lips, so when you cover your mouth, intentionally or not (thanks to the Iacaboni boys for torturing me), I may not “hear” you. I may need you to repeat something for me, as I may not have caught it the first time you said it, due to the amount of background noise.
"What did you say?"
However, please know that if you ever tell me I cannot do something, for whatever reason, you may find yourself sitting back in awe because I will seek to demolish that limitation you have unfairly placed upon me. Again, I will ask, but with a very different meaning:
"What did you say?"
I have used this perseverant trait to teach my children that they are able to accomplish their goals, as well. When someone else tries to limit you, you take that boundary line and you surpass it. You alone can define what is possible for yourself; especially if you want something badly enough.
My oldest has recently used this message and she has used it well. My strong girl has been confined by others in her most favorite sport for years. She has been hearing the message that she is good, but not quite good enough, over and over and over again. We have taught her to use this negative messaging: keep her head down and to work even harder. Perseverance is a trait that courses fiercely through our veins.
My oldest has just received an offer to join a team that participates at a very high regional level and focuses on prepping players for collegiate and professional play. The opportunity to play at the Elite level is the precise reward for her continued dedication. My girl has pushed herself to improve year after year, to discredit the naysayers that kept telling her she was not quite good enough or she could not play at a higher level.
“She believed she could, so she did.” The power in a simple phrase, the ability to believe in yourself so you can accomplish your goals; it is an undeniable empowerment. Why would we not arm ourselves with a certain confidence and a belief that we can attain what we set out to accomplish?
With that, what will you believe in yourself?
What will you do to accomplish that goal?
Anything is possible!