My boss sent me a message the other day and said that while he and my coworker were talking, they noticed that communication had “oddly” gotten better with me and my coworkers since we have been remote. I felt a ping in my heart and a dig to my self esteem.

Oddly is the word that got me!


Not uncommon, my boss is a victim of the standard ableist social construct and oppression of the hard of hearing.

If a person’s inner ear is not functioning properly, that means they don’t have the same ability to process sounds accurately as those with normal hearing. It is not just missing a sound or word or the volume of the sound but it is the quality of the sound. It is not knowing where a sound came from or maybe not recognizing a sound.

For most of my life I have been the odd one. I was the only one of the five children in our household that was hard of hearing, HOH. I was probably the only one with hearing loss in most of my elementary classes, which made me feel isolated and odd at times. Accommodations, compassion, or protection were not provided for me within my own family, my classrooms, or my workplace. However, dismissive attitudes and rude or insensitive remarks easily flew out.

Communicating (and speaking), hearing, listening, and comprehending go hand in hand. When a person is hard of hearing, it impacts all of these functions, just like Parkinson’s disease impacts various aspects of a person’s mobility. We don’t blame the person with Parkinson’s disease for his/her inability to perform at the same level as others without this condition. So why does society continue to ask and require unequal standards on Hard of Hearing and Deaf citizens and blame us when there is a communication breakdown.

It really is no surprise that I function better at home or that I am able to communicate better. Open space work environments create various noise levels; keyboards tapping, people talking, doors opening\closing, papers shuffling, copier, phones, and so many other low vibrations that all work together to create the work environment, but can greatly impede our ability to function in the office. For those of us who are hard of hearing, it creates an even greater obstacle.

On the other hand, my home is very quiet. I primarily message or email coworkers and customers. I also have headphones that I use for one on one conversations with a customer or a coworker when needed and for our meetings that are usually accompanied with Zoom.

What I don’t have at home are coworkers interrupting my phone conversations (like I can hear the customer and my coworker at the same time), or talking over others, or having several employees shouting over cubes, having loud conversations, nor do I have to manage conversations with multiple speakers and quickly changing topics, all of which are sounds competing with each other while my limited inner ear hearing ability tries to decide which sounds it will register and send to my brain for processing and which ones are inaudible and it cannot decipher. I don’t have to try and play catchup because someone decided to start having a conversation with me before letting me know they were talking to me.

Just for the record, I cannot work and listen at the same time. I don’t have that privilege. I either listen or I work.

Working remote, I don’t have to play office politics and fear offending someone (yes, they get an attitude with me for explaining my unique hearing ability) because they don’t understand hard of hearing people. Or feel misunderstood because I cannot keep up with the rapid conversations or quick wit that invokes laughter (I am still trying to hear the punchline or missed it all together) that some take as me being unsociable, or “not trying to fit in”.

It is difficult for a hard of hearing person in open space offices. Being remote in my quiet home is so much less stressful. My sound log is greatly reduced, which are less sounds to hear, and less sounds to process.

For me, because I have damaged inner hair cells, it means when sounds bounce off my hair cells, three things happen; it will produce no sound (deaf), a modified sound quality, or a lower\reduced sound volume (hard of hearing). I have NO normal hearing in either ear. And while I do wear hearing aids, hearing aids cannot reproduce or magnify a sound that is silent. Nor can it make a damaged hair cell sound normal.

New technology is advancing quickly in audiology over recent years, making sounds more crisp and identifiable.

I remember the first time I got hearing aids. I had been hard of hearing all my life so I had no comparison to what normal hearing was. My own voice was louder and clearer and I also could hear other voices better. While I have talked to my mother many times in person and on the phone, I felt like I was hearing her true voice for the first time. I remember telling her how beautiful her voice sounded to me.

However, modern medicine has not found a way to surgically repair the inner hair cells inside a human’s ear. When they are gone or damaged, it is for life. This is why medical professionals warn us about headphones and their concern for our children’s hearing health.

Have you ever looked inside a piano? It is a complicated mechanism that all work together to create the sounds for a great pianist. When those inner parts of the piano are not working properly or are not ALL in tune, what happens? Some keys may produce beautiful sounds. Some may not resonate any sound. And others may produce a lower quality or a sour note.

Now imagine having to explain which key equals which note solely based on sound and not looking at the keys. How do you think after a few hours of doing this you might feel? Somewhat frustrated? How do you determine a note if you cannot see nor hear the note being played? Now imagine having to do this for hours, at school or work every day. This is what conversations are like for the Hard of Hearing and Deaf.

Each time a hard of hearing or deaf person enters into mainstream society, we process our surrounding sounds differently than normal hearing people. We even process them differently than each other. No two HOH people are the same.

It is time for society to change their perception of what it means to be hard of hearing. It is not only an image of a senior citizen, or a sign of getting older, or someone who has “selective” hearing, or “hears what they want to hear”, nor are they “slow”, or “spaced out”, or “not paying attention”, or “not listening”, or has a problem “communicating effectively”. Nor did you “confuse” them because they did not hear your comment. All terms I have personally heard said to me among many others.

Lastly, we don’t need “normal hearing” people to explain the difference between deaf and hard of hearing or downplaying our experience. We know the difference much better than anyone with normal hearing. It would be like a white person telling a light skinned black person how much harder racism impacts darker shades of skin color. Or a person with two arms telling someone with one arm, how hard it must be for those with no arms. It is dismissive to what we encounter on a daily basis.

12 Ways Noise Affects Employee Wellbeing Health Productivity:

“Workers in open plan offices take 70% more sick days than home workers.”

Why Hearing Loss Advocacy Is So Important

Living With Hearing Loss

Advocacy is defined by Merriam-Webster as the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal. defines it as the act of pleading for, supporting or recommending, but my favorite definition is by Wiktionary which says that advocacy is the practice of supporting someone to make their voice heard. What is more important than having one’s voice heard? 

Advocacy raises awareness, it breaks down barriers, crushes stigma and helps further the cause, any cause. And it works. That’s why I will Walk4Hearing again this year. The theme is Communication Access — one of my favorite advocacy initiatives.

IMG_5300 HLAA’s NYC Walk4Hearing in 2015

View original post 377 more words

Can The Hearing Lost Be Found?

Living With Hearing Loss

Everywhere I go there are people with hearing loss, but they don’t want to be found. They will reveal once I do, but not before, and only to me — not more broadly. I find them at conferences, school events, lectures — always sitting up near the front, just like I do — but silent about the need for the speaker to use a microphone or to not turn his back to the audience. How can we change this mindset?


View original post 448 more words

Speech and Language – Hearing impairments

Sharing this article with great information…

Speech and Language kids


A child with a mild hearing loss may not be hearing certain sounds in the English language. If the child has trouble hearing higher sounds, he may be missing sounds like “s”, “t”, “sh”, “f”, “th”, etc. These sounds come up a lot in our language so it can be very hard to understand. Take a look at the following example. A child with a high-frequency hearing loss (meaning he doesn’t hear the higher pitches) might hear a sentence like this (I’m taking out all of the high-frequency sounds):

I ing am and I ould oh e um oro.

Ok, did you understand that? No, probably not. That sentence was spoken as “I think Sam and I should go get some poprocks”. That gives you an idea of how hard it can be for a child to not hear even just a few sounds. These children may have trouble understanding what is being said to them, they may not be able to follow directions, and they may have trouble building their vocabularies and learning grammatical structures. Their speech may also be very hard to understand since they don’t hear some of the sounds they should be saying.

Please Don’t Tell Me Never Mind

Living With Hearing Loss

It happens sometimes. A friend or colleague is telling me a funny story or explaining an event that happened, and at some point I will ask “What did you say?” I got the beginning, but somewhere along the way I missed something and needed clarification of the last point. The speaker pauses, as if to think about the question, and replies “Never mind.” Usually, this is accompanied by a dismissive wave of the hand or shake of the head or both. I hate that, don’t you?


View original post 343 more words

Toxic Families

I recently stumbled upon an article about Toxic Families.

Looking back, I see an uncanny similarity to my childhood.  It’s funny how time can ease those bad memories, the fears, and the pain.  The wounds are still present but we forget what the discomfort felt like.  Then, when we look at the scar, we unwilling recall every detail of the past.  People will tell you, don’t look at the scar, don’t speak of the scar, forget the scar.  Some think if the scar is invisible, the circumstance is imaginary.  Nothing can be farther from the truth.

I was the youngest of three in the family with a single parent household, until my mother began dating our step father when I was a young five year old.

I was soon assessed and unequally measured up against my siblings and I didn’t fare well.  I cried too much and acted like a baby.  I sucked my thumb, wet my bed, talked too much and was too loud.  I was lazy in school, did not pay attention, did not listen nor did I perform well in school.  I was too sensitive, and too emotional.

I realize now that I was a neglected child.  I had all the classic signs that something was wrong but none of the adults would acknowledge or validate my very real and natural reactions to my circumstances.  If I were in the foster care or an adoptee, I would have been classified as a special needs child.

My needs and my disabilities were ignored, despite the absence of my father and the only child in our family who did not have a biological father to actively spend quality time with me (which I had between the ages of birth and four years old but then abruptly stopped).  Watching my two older siblings leave for the weekend with their paternal grandparents or father after us three kids were inseparable for most the time and then being told that I couldn’t go because this was “their grandparents or father” left me feeling forsaken.  Their grandparents, the Whitaker’s, did try to include me.  They started sending me $25.00 during Christmas time, the same amount as my siblings.  I would be reminded by our mother how generous it was of them to include me and how grateful I should be.  On rare occasions I eventually got to tag along with my siblings but not until I got much older.  I remember a time or two being reminded by my sister that they were “her” grandparents, not mine.  She didn’t have to tell me.  I mean they were nice to me but I was very aware that I was not their grandchild.  I felt like a guest when visiting, not family.  Even my brother and sister acted different when we were visiting with the Whitakers.  (Back then, none of us kids knew that their father is actually listed as my father on my birth certificate.)

What little scraps I got, I accepted it.  After all, I didn’t have my father or paternal grandparents picking me up or doting over me.  My paternal family didn’t have much to do with me, except for my sister Chick.  There were no letters, Christmas or birthday cards or presents, no phone calls or visits with my paternal family except on a very rare occasion.  I recall my mother taking me to a family reunion on my father’s side when I was a freshman in high school.  That was the first time we had seen each other since I was a baby.  Hardly anyone recognized me.  And I surely didn’t remember most of them.  I got to invite a friend of mine who’s Italian.  She fit right in with my Italian relatives and many thought she was family instead of me.  My paternal family didn’t know me.  My cousins, in-laws, aunts and uncles did not know me.  They knew my sister Chick, my half-sister from my dad, but they didn’t know me.  I had to keep explaining that I was Mario’s daughter.  My father, at the time, was in prison for murder.  But again, none of that mattered to my parents or family.  They didn’t feel the need to take me to a counselor or psychologist to help me cope.  My emotional or physical challenges, which began when I was a baby, were all in my head.  I was blamed for everything.

I was called,

A baby

A Bed-wetter

Squirt (Nickname), a pun on being a bed-wetter

A Crybaby

A Whiner

A Hypochondriac

An Airhead

I was accused of being too sensitive, overreacting and weak.

These labels would stick with me throughout my childhood and adulthood.

To borrow a quote from Oprah, my family didn’t see me, hear me and what I said didn’t really matter.

I will never forgot the first time I went to the state of Texas, DARS office to see if I qualified for disability assistance for my hearing impairment.  And I did.  That was first time I received validation.  It felt strange, really.  I kept waiting for someone to accuse me of faking it, since my family never acknowledged my hearing impairment or tried to provide any accommodations.  They treated me as if I was equal to my siblings (and classmates) when in fact I was not.  They all had normal hearing, I did not.

When DARS recently sent me to a new audiologist for a hearing test to reassess my hearing and to see if I qualified for new hearing aids, the doctor, who is also hearing impaired asked me when I was diagnosed.  I told him when I was in the second grade.  So his next question was assuming that I got hearing aids at the same time.  I explained to him that I did not.  He said his parents, who were both teachers discovered his hearing loss which was approximately about the same as mine as a child.  He said his speech and learning progress didn’t match up to his older sister so his parents knew something was wrong.  I told him that was funny because it was actually the teachers that discovered my hearing loss and noticed I was not speaking or learning at the same rate as my classmates.  But for whatever reason, even after I was diagnosed with permanent hearing loss (mild right ear and moderate left ear), my parents chose not to pursue hearing aids or any other type of assistance to help me with my hearing impairment.  Despite the repeated comments on my report cards that stated, “She does not listen, does not pay attention.  She day dreams a lot,” they still didn’t get it nor did they go to school to defend me or explain my situation.  The comments from my parents on the back of my report card are proof of that.  Now, I realize my parents were not rocket scientist or college educated at the time, but my goodness, the proof was very apparent and yet they ignored my diagnoses and even blamed me as the reason for my grades and behavior in school.  Not only did they ignore the diagnoses but they never took me to an audiologist for the remainder of my school years to have my hearing re-tested.  Think about that.  Can you imagine your child being diagnosed with a vision problem and not buying him glasses nor getting annual exams to see if his vision got worse.  More often than not, once you’ve been diagnosed with a vision or hearing impairment, over time, your ability level will decrease.  My mother said, “The school tested you every year.”  But sadly, it’s not the school’s responsibility to monitor our children’s health issues; it’s our parents.

In addition, schools do not always catch a child’s ability to see or hear or monitor their progress.  My co-worker told me a story about her nephew (her brother’s step son) who is in the third grade.  She said after the school suggested their son have an eye exam, his parents learned that their son has a serious visual impairment.  She said his glasses were so thick.  She commented at how he used to squint all the time (for years) and no one ever thought anything of it.  She said the first time she saw him with his glasses on; he was smiling, talking and seemed so much more confident, a big change from his previous behavior.  Imagine that.  Just obtaining glasses and being able to see better made him more confident.  His parents felt really bad for not noticing earlier and she said they kept apologizing to him over and over again and treated him extra special.  As parents, we are not perfect.  We miss things.  But when we learn that our child has special needs and there is a valid reason why our child may not be performing the way we expect (age appropriately) and we have an opportunity to help them perform better but choose to ignore it, that’s neglect.

So instead of my family validating my impairment or emotional needs, they scapegoated me.  I became an easy target and easy prey.  I was weak.  If something happened to me, they responded, “Well you should have known better,” or “you should have done this,” or “you should have learned.”  Then as I got older, the comments would continue as such, (actual comments copied from emails or facebook), “You are reading too much into this,”  “I think you’re over analyzing situations.”  “Don’t make problems where none exist.”  “Feeling sorry for yourself.”  “Don’t make a big deal about it.”  “By all means, do whatever you can to help others and yourself. Just remember, others need positives to move forward….not negatives or rehashing. It might work in a therapy session, but not here! No audience!”, and lastly,  “LOST CAUSE….LOST SOUL!!!”

I have to admit, the last one hurt real bad.  I don’t think I could ever say that to one of my children.

And if that wasn’t enough, my family would recruit other members of the family and some friends to chime in and bash Karen and then forward me their email.

This was from my uncle after reading My Storybook Father, “A lot had it worse than she did growing up.  I can recall Colleen’s pouts,” and “Surviving the Sisters of St. Joseph who must of been trained by the Nazis.  Also boo hoo… cousins and my two best friends moving away before I even got into high school.”

Some people will never see you or hear you or validate you.  And some will.

I had another uncle share this, “I have a better understanding of what she went through in life. My life was a walk in the park compared to what came her way. With God beside her she has done an amazing job.”



The above link has some great information for anyone who lives or works with HOH or deaf persons.

As many of you know, I have had a hearing impairment since I was a small child.

My parents never purchased hearing aids to assist with my hearing loss because they said the only suggestion from the professional staff at Temple Hospital in Philadelphia was to move my seat to the front of the classroom.  Now that would be fine if the teacher stood in the front of the classroom, close to me, facing my direction all day long.  But we all know that wasn’t the case back then or even now-a-days.  But especially back then because teachers relied heavily on the chalk board to help teach their students.  So sound was going away from my direction throughout the day.  Also, during group discussion (question and answer times) Hard of Hearing kids cannot hear what the other kids who sit across the room from them are saying.  And if the HOH kid raises their hand to ask for the information to be repeated, they get accused of not paying attention.  So this becomes an embarrassment to the HOH kid.  Then they get labeled as a daydreamer, slacker, doesn’t pay attention, and doesn’t listen.

I passed every school year with a C average (mixed with some D’s, some B’s and very few A’s and F’s).  And I graduated with my high school class.  Not bad, considering kids with a mild to moderate hearing loss like myself achieve on average 1-4 grade levels behind their hearing peers without intervention.  And yet,  I was made to feel that I was not performing well and was punished at home for my bad grades and for not working to the best of my ability because I was “not listening” and “not paying attention.” Go figure!

I’m thinking this would have raised some red flags for some parents but somehow these obvious signs for my known diagnosis went on mute ears and deaf minds.  My family treated my hearing impairment like a lame excuse rather than a contributing factor.  They basically ignored my diagnosis and I became the bunt of the jokes in the family.

Maybe it was a sign of the times back then.

As a result, I hardly ever acknowledged my own hearing loss growing up because my family rarely acknowledge that it was a part of me and who I was as a person.  I was considered to be “slow”, an air-headed, and a host of other negative connotations.

As for me, I never disliked being HOH and I embraced that part of me.  I just disliked the way others perceived and treated me. And the lack of support I received from my family did not help my self confidence.  Being expected to perform at a level equal to my siblings and peers when we were not entirely playing on a equal field was frustrating.  I truly believe that if my parents would have taken more interest and worked with the teachers or defended me sometimes, I could have excelled more academically and socially.

When I started my new job at the end of last year, I acknowledged my hearing impairment to my new employer and told them straight up, I am HOH, I wear hearing aids and this is how I hear.  They were very understanding and even allowed me to speak to our department in the monthly meeting.

So my questions is, did any of YOU have a similar experience where your family and/or educators ignored or seemed to “forget about” your diagnosis?

Effects of Hearing Loss on Development

Effects of Hearing Loss on Development

I would say this sounds like my experience as an adolescent…


Children with hearing loss often cannot hear quiet speech sounds such as “s,” “sh,” “f,” “t,” and “k” and therefore do not include them in their speech. Thus, speech may be difficult to understand.

Children with hearing loss may not hear their own voices when they speak. They may speak too loudly or not loud enough. They may have a speaking pitch that is too high. They may sound like they are mumbling because of poor stress, poor inflection, or poor rate of speaking.

Academic Achievement

Children with hearing loss have difficulty with all areas of academic achievement, especially reading and mathematical concepts.

Children with mild to moderate hearing losses, on average, achieve one to four grade levels lower than their peers with normal hearing, unless appropriate management occurs.

The gap in academic achievement between children with normal hearing and those with hearing loss usually widens as they progress through school.

Teaching Others About Your Hard-of-Hearing Child.

Teaching Others About Your Hard-of-Hearing Child.

This is a great article.  I wish my family took my hearing loss more seriously and acknowledged my differences to teachers and family members but that was not the case.  Maybe it was a sign of the times more than a lack of concern for my well-being or my feelings.  It does make me very happy that the medical professionals, parents, schools and society are becoming more aware and cognizant of children and adults who live with hearing impairments.