Monday, January 11, 2010
Shanna's Lipreading Life
1. When and how did you realize you were losing your hearing?
Shortly after the birth of my first child, I noticed a ringing sound in both of my ears. I scheduled a doctor’s appointment and was referred to an audiologist for a hearing test. It was determined I had progressive hearing loss, and the cause was unknown. I was 27 years old.
2. What was your reaction when you first discovered your hearing loss and how did you learn to accept it?
I was in a state of shock, then denial. I waited two years before wearing hearing aids, even though an audiologist said that my hearing loss was advanced enough that I needed hearing aids from the initial diagnosis. I remember the doctor telling me that if my hearing loss were vision loss, that I wouldn’t be allowed to drive a car without corrective vision care. In essence, the doctor was telling me I would struggle to hear and communicate well without hearing aids. I was scared about having to wear something that the whole world would see, something that showed I was different...
3. How does your hearing loss affect your relationship with your husband?
My husband has become accustomed to repeating things for me. When we are out in public, such as at a restaurant, a server may ask me a question. If I didn’t hear the question, my husband will assist me by repeating or answering the question himself. We have learned to carry on conversations in rooms where there is good lighting and little background noise, although sometimes he can forget by calling for me from another room!
4. What is it like being a mom with hearing loss?
Since my children are young, I have struggled to understand their high-pitched, delicate voices. They often have to repeat themselves. My two-year-old has a very loud yell and will use it if I don’t respond to him. My nine-year-old is much easier to understand because his voice is deeper. Sometimes the older two children ask why I didn’t answer their question, and I remind them that I have trouble hearing and it’s not my fault. Although sometimes I struggle with guilt because I can’t always understand what they are saying.
5. What is your biggest challenge with hearing loss?
Understanding my children’s voices. I can hear them, but I don’t always understand what they are saying. It makes me sad when they get frustrated with me. With time, I hope all of us will be more patient and compassionate with one another. My kids are getting an early lesson in patience with me.
6. Is there anything you do to help you cope with the daily frustrations of hearing loss?
I have struggled with depression. I have a degree in communication, and I thrive on being able to communicate with people both one-on-one and in group settings. In the past, when I couldn’t understand conversation, I either withdrew from the group or dominated the conversation so I wouldn’t have to listen as much! The depression came from not being able to control the hearing loss, and also the anxiety of not knowing how my hearing will be in the future. Since I continue to lose hearing each year, I have to step out in faith and believe that my life will still be okay, with or without my hearing.
7. How has hearing loss changed you as a person?
It has brought me to my knees, realizing that I need to lean on my greatest source of strength: God. Before the hearing loss diagnosis in 2001, I struggled with being judgmental of people who I perceived were different from me. In the past few years, I have been forced to reexamine my perspective. What I realize is that without people having their unique differences, this world would be a very boring place! I also have more compassion for people struggling with various life situations.
8. What would your advice be to others who suffer hearing loss?
Don’t be afraid to visit an audiologist and get your hearing tested. If the doctor recommends hearing aids, do your research on products and include your family in the buying process. The more you include your family with your hearing loss journey, I believe, the more they will understand what your changing life is like. Surround yourself with people who love you unconditionally. Take the time to understand and accept your hearing loss situation the best that you can. Find support from outside your family, such as with local or online hearing loss support groups. I belong to the Hearing Loss Association of America, which has a chapter in Kansas City. Visit Hearingloss.org to learn more about this organization.