Growing up HOH

Picture of an infant wearing a hearing aid

Picture of an infant wearing a hearing aid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I never talked much about my hearing loss as a child.

My mother was informed of my poor hearing ability when I was at the age of five.  My kindergarten teacher noticed my hearing “problem” within the first marking period of school and alerted my mother.  My teacher believed my poor academic performance was a result of my inability to hear well.  I also had a speech impediment which may have alerted some parents, but as far as I know, this was the first time my mother became aware of my possible hearing loss.

In my mother’s defense, she was a single mom of three at the time.  I’m sure she was very busy.

I did not get properly diagnosed until I was in the second grade, which again was a result of the school suggesting I should be tested by an audiologist.  My mother had remarried by this time.  She and my step father took me to Temple University in Philadelphia to see an audiologist where I was diagnosed with a mild conductive hearing loss in my right ear and a moderate conductive hearing loss in my left.  The doctors were unable to establish if I was born with my hearing loss or if I had lost it at a young age.  They mentioned to my parents that I had naturally learned to read lips.  I had no idea I was doing it.  They said that considering my speech articulation and lip reading (with sound), I most likely became hard of hearing very young.  They asked my parents if I had been around any loud noises or if I had a lot of ear infections, both of which could have contributed to my hearing loss.

I had many ear infections as a child.  I remember crying with pain in the middle of night with little or no sympathy from my family.  I was often accused of overreacting.  A couple times, I got the blow dryer out and put it up to my ear.  I had heard this sometimes helps to soothe the pain.  I would have cut off my ear if I thought this would have relieved the pain.  To this day, of all the pain I have experienced, including a cut that needed five stitches, a broken toe, and giving birth two times, the aching from an ear infection is one of the worst pains I have experienced.

I’ve occasionally wondered if my hearing loss was caused by the many ear infections I had.  I’ve questioned how a parent would not notice their child having a mild or moderate hearing loss.  More importantly, I’ve pondered why a parent would ignore a diagnosis.

The decision was made; I did not need hearing aids.  As a result, life was challenging at times.  “Huh” and “What did you say?” became a part of my everyday conversation.

My siblings loved to make fun of me.  The hearing jokes were endless.  I had people tell me, “Get the wax at of your ears.”  Some accused me of being an airhead and tell me that my “blonde roots” were showing (I am a nature brunette), which I found out later as an adult that many other people like me have been accused of being an airhead too.  I had friends ask me if I was stupid and other times, call me stupid, playfully, because I didn’t get a joke.  I would have a delayed reaction on the punch line.  They assumed it was because I was slow.  It was because I was listening then processing which for me is a two part process.   In my later years, I often heard jokes that attributed my hearing impairment as a sign of aging or getting older.  I just laughed it off in my younger years.  But the one thing the bothered me most was how my family, friends and co-workers commented, ridiculed or hushed me up for talking to loud.  This is the one thing that really pissed me off.

Other than that, I would say I assimilated well to my surroundings with my hearing impairment.  However, at times, I did feel different and disconnected from my environment.  I truly believe that if my parents would have taken my hearing ability or lack thereof more seriously and if I had gotten the assistance that I needed earlier in my childhood development, I would have performed much better in school which would have improved my self-confidence.

I got my first set of hearing aids in my late 40’s.  Amazingly, I adjusted really well.  Previously, noises were muffled sounding.  When I put my hearing aids on, it was like my head opened up.  Think of how it feels being under water; closed and restrictive, right?  Then think of how it feels when you come out of the water.   That’s how wearing hearing aids feels for me.  It’s like I am going from under the water to out of the water; to much louder and clearer sounds.

One of the biggest adjustments was my voice volume.  I could hear my voice loud and clear.  Without realizing it, I began talking in a very low volume, which to me sounded loud when I was wearing my hearing aids.  For the first time in my life, I had people tell me that they couldn’t hear me and asked me to speak up.  I couldn’t believe it.  This felt great!  I began to understand my voice volume by the vibration in my throat.  That way, I could try to monitor my volume when I didn’t have my hearing aids on.

Another way to describe to someone who does not have a hearing impairment is to have one person put their hand over their mouth loosely and talk in a normal tone while the other listens.  Try to carry on a normal conversation for an hour or even longer.  See how well you are able to hear, interpret, and comprehend what the other person is saying.  See if you feel any frustration as a result.  Now imagine being in a large classroom and listening to your teacher sound like this as she verbally gives her lesson or listening to your boss and co-workers discussing important issues in a large meeting room.

Lastly, let me leave you with this.  If you speak to someone and they don’t respond, don’t assume they are being rude and ignoring you or that they are daydreaming.  It may be that they are deaf or hard of hearing.  And if someone asks you to repeat the information, please politely do so (without showing any inconvenience).  The key to communicating with a hard of hearing person is to be near them and preferably facing them while you are speaking to them in your normal speaking tone.  Understand that not all hard of hearing people are the same in their ability to hear.

Many hard of hearing and deaf persons don’t wear their impairment or disability on their sleeve.  Unlike other disabilities, hearing loss is unseen and often is misunderstood.  A little compassion and consideration goes a long way.

UNWANTED

A pregnant woman

A pregnant woman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I find the whole Pro-Choice, Pro-Life debate frustrating at times. I don’t believe there are any other political issues in this day and age that draw greater polarities of opinions than this political topic. But this post is not about the debate, nor is it about the adults who are arguing over the debate but rather the children. They are the ones in the cross fire.

As much as the debate frustrates me, there is one thing that bothers me even more and that is when I hear the term “unwanted.” This term seems to get easily thrown around by both sides of those debating Pro-Life and Pro-Choice with no apparent consideration of whom it may offend or hurt. I’m curious about these people who sometimes crudely debate this issue; who make their harsh judgments and careless comments about the “unwanted” kids? Who are they? Have they themselves ever felt unwanted? Were they born out of wedlock? Were they adopted? Were they raised by a single parent? Did they grow up poor or homeless? Were they abused or abandoned by one or both of their parents; or bounced around from family to family or foster home to foster home? I would like to hear from the voices of these children.

There are several birth mother groups popping up on the internet and Facebook, some of which are wounded, angry birth mothers who would like to abolish “newborn” adoptions as much as Pro-Lifer’s want to abolish abortions. They believe there are those who try to take advantage of the misfortune of an unplanned teen pregnancy and feel women are being used to supply the needs for the childless parents. At times, I do understand how they feel. As a woman, to have a society judge you for getting pregnant in the first place, then tell you that you are a baby killer if you choose to abort, to telling you it is unfair to raise a child as a single parent, to coaxing you into relinquishing your child; only to have society then tell the birth child he/she was “unwanted” by his or her first/birth parents.

People say it’s different now. For some, it is. But after reading the birth mother blogs, they say that the changes are not genuine but rather a marketing (open adoption) ploy by adoption agencies to get more birth parents to relinquish their parental rights, which turns into more dollars for them. Adoption agencies are playing match maker, representing both sides (birth family versus adoptive family) and will coach or persuade as they feel appropriate, sometimes beguiling one party to benefit another. I will say that my own experience with my birth son’s adoptive parents has been nothing more than positive, open, respectful, and loving for which I am very grateful. I do believe that we are the exception though and not the norm. I’ll let you make your own judgments on this.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 10 million single mothers raising children and 24 million children live in a biological father-absent home. These statistics are alarming and show us that too many women are facing their unplanned pregnancy independently. Men are abandoning women every day during the unexpected prenatal period and somehow we as a society accept this behavior. We allow men to go out and sew their wild oats and then walk away from their responsibility. Society tells women, “Well, you should have known better.” “A man is going to be a man.” Or my personal favorite, “Men can’t help themselves.” Really? Are we talking about children or are we discussing grown mature men. Do we need to remind men that sex was not created for just an orgasm; sex was created to produce life. When girls and boys become men and women, there is no “one” gender to blame for an unplanned pregnancy.

I have heard some men say, “She said she was on birth control.” We all know that birth control is not 100% effective. Even so, it’s not okay to leave the responsibility on one partner. If you do, don’t blame someone else for any consequences. Think of it this way. Your friend handed you gun. You decided to play make-believe Russian roulette. Your friend assures you that they removed all the bullets so you don’t have any worries. Do you aim and shoot? Do you consider the adverse consequence? Do you trust your friend well enough to risk your life?

In my memoir, One Woman’s Choice, I share that my own existence was based on an unplanned “accidental” pregnancy in 1963. My biological father went to prison when I was four years old and was absent for most of my adolescent years, causing my mother to shoulder the responsibility for my every need. I’ve had my fair share of teenage boys and adult men use me for their sexual hunger with no consideration for the unforeseen consequences of their sexual desires or deviances. Even my son’s father refused to take responsibility when he learned of our unplanned child, except to offer to pay for the abortion. And I’ve listened to countless women tell a similar story that resulted in abortion, adoption or single parenting because their male partner couldn’t handle the consequences of sex and walked away. Yes, you might say I am somewhat frustrated by how men can think about sex all the time without thinking about the consequences. Yet still, we continue to blame women for unplanned pregnancies. To borrow a line from the film, Philadelphia, “Can someone please explain this to me like I’m a five year old?”

I don’t know if society has brainwashed men for thousands of years or men have brainwashed women. Maybe a little bit of both. But brainwashing doesn’t make it true. Does society really believe that men are incapable of controlling their own sexual needs or that their desires are stronger than a woman’s desires? I don’t. I think this is an excuse. But that’s not the issue. It’s what happens after those desires are fed that result in an offspring that causes the debate which women and children seem to get caught in the combat zone while men sit on the sidelines observing from afar.

Now I already know that some of the men reading this may be thinking I’m bashing all men. I’m not. I personally know a few good men who didn’t abandon their partner when an unexpected pregnancy occurred and I highly respect them. But you have to admit, even when this happens, we’ve heard some people blame women again and say, “She tricked him.” Just for the record, I’m not saying that all women are saints. But statically, more women are carrying the load and responsibility of an unplanned pregnancy from the time of conception. Society watches her every move, her every decision and is ready to fire back with quick accusations, assumptions and sometimes unfair judgments.

With the exception of forced sexual contact, I don’t think that an abortion or an adoption should take place without the consent of both biological parents. I hope one day it will be illegal for any parent to walk away from his or her responsibility once a child is born unless their parental rights are legally relinquished. I truly believe that if more men supported their partner during an unplanned pregnancy, we would see fewer abortions and adoptions because many, many women chose these options when all other hope is gone, as a last resort. If we don’t begin to educate our youth and re-educate our society, we will continue to fall into the same repetitive cycle over and over again.

But I’m getting side tracked. Back to the “unwanted.”

I can tell you from personal experience that although I have chosen abortion and adoption, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t want my children. Have you ever “wanted” a new car but couldn’t afford it? Some of us know to leave the dealership before we get cornered by some smooth talking salesman who begins to talk us into agreeing to something we know we shouldn’t be doing. Some salesmen can be very persuasive when it comes to getting what they want. Sound familiar? Somehow the salesman gets into our psyche and convinces us into buying a new car. We skip a few payments (you could replace this with “periods”) because of our financial hardship and now the salesman is no longer sweet or charming but rather standoffish and unapproachable. For some of us, our car gets repossessed. It still doesn’t mean we didn’t want the vehicle, it just means we couldn’t afford the vehicle. Some may ask their family or friends for help while others may ask someone to take over payments to avoid repossession.

My point is the vehicle was not unwanted. Just like children are not unwanted. I would say most parents “want” their children whether or not; emotional, physical, or financial hardships prevent them from carrying out their obligation and responsibility. Broadcasting that a youngster is “unwanted” puts the emphasis on the innocent child which is unfair.

No child (or human being) is ever “unwanted” because we always have God, whose love is boundless, endless, and timeless.