I was talking to a friend about hearing loss today and the word disability came up. Technically I am considered to have a disability because I can’t hear. I have always rejected that designation because I feel completely able. I don’t consider being deaf a disability, I consider it an inconvenience. And a challenge.
When I first lost my hearing, I couldn’t believe it could be happening to me. I couldn’t believe it couldn’t be fixed. I always thought if something was wrong, the doctor would make it better. The idea that something in me was broken and couldn’t be fixed, was beyond my comprehension at the time.
It took awhile and it wasn’t easy, but I finally came to terms with the knowledge that this was the new me. This would be (as some people say) ‘the new normal.’ Once I got past the denial, anger, frustration, and sadness, I made a very conscious decision. If I had to be deaf, I was going to be the best damn deaf I could be.
Rather than think of what I can’t do because I can’t hear – and hearing would be pretty much it – I think about what I can do and what I’m so very grateful for. I can see the faces of those I love. I can feel the sun on my face and the breeze in my hair. I can walk. I can talk. I can go wherever I want to go. I can do what I want to do. I have far more limitations because of age and arthritis than I do from being deaf.
I don’t mean to make light of it. I don’t mean to make it sound fun. I don’t mean to make it sound like it doesn’t matter. I know firsthand the pain and suffering of the loss. But I also know that it doesn’t have to be the end of our world. It doesn’t have to take away the pleasure of living and having new and varied experiences. It doesn’t have to keep us from interacting with people. We can get help. We can compensate. We can live without hearing. Life is different, but it is not less.