Ever since I was four years old, I have worn a hearing aid in my right ear. Since I was little then, I can only vaguely remember the experience of getting my first hearing aid. I don’t recall whether I was excited or nervous or even understood what was going on, but I do remember getting the fitting for my mold (the part that goes inside of my ear and keeps the hearing aid in) and my audiologist (a doctor for ears) putting a cold, playdough like material in my ear. My first hearing aid was boring, a beige one that I only had to wear for a few years before I got my purple one. Putting my hearing aid in for the first time wasn’t a viral-video moment, where suddenly my face lit up and I could hear sounds I couldn’t hear before. However, on that day, my hearing aid became a huge part of my life.
When you grow up knowing nothing other than wearing a hearing aid and looking a little different from everyone else, you begin to seek out people that look like you. I remember watching a music award show and seeing the performers with mics in their ears. I got so excited because I thought, “Wow! So many people who are famous wear hearing aids like me! That’s so cool!” I later found out that that wasn’t the case but looking back on that moment I realized how much I craved Hard of Hearing representation in the media.
As I’ve gotten older, I have begun to see more characters in the media who are D/deaf (uppercase “D” Deaf means that someone is culturally deaf and lower case “d” deaf means someone is just medically deaf) and Hard of Hearing (Hard of Hearing means that someone has a hearing loss. The term “Hearing Impaired” is no longer a used term as it implies that there is something wrong with someone who has a hearing loss). It makes me so happy to know that little D/deaf and Hard of Hearing kids will grow up seeing kids like them on their favorite TV shows. I still get incredibly excited whenever I see a D/deaf or Hard of Hearing character on TV or see a kid at the grocery store wearing hearing aids. But we still have some work to do! My dream is that one day we’ll regularly see kids with hearing devices in clothing ads to cartoons.
My passion for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing representation is one of the reasons that I’m a huge supporter of brightly colored hearing aids. Not only are they a way to have fun with something that you need to use, but they are also a way to bring D/deaf and Hard of Hearing representation into everyday life. My hope is that by wearing my bright blue hearing aid, I’m helping another hard of hearing kid feel less alone and seen and that they feel that same incredible feeling I feel whenever I see someone like me out and about in the world.
In my 10 years of wearing a hearing aid, I have rarely felt self-conscious about it. It wasn’t until recently that I’ve begun to worry about what people think. Because my hearing loss isn’t super significant and I’ve never really known life without my hearing aid, I found myself de-validating my hearing loss and I realized I had let others do so as well. Recognizing these patterns has been a process, but I’m starting to really understand the fact that I do indeed have a hearing loss. I’ve learned this in part by realizing that my hearing loss affects my mood, how I pay attention, how loudly I talk, and how on-pitch I am when I sing. Not only has realizing those things helped affirm my identity as a hard-of-hearing person, but also the discovery of the online D/deaf and Hard of Hearing community. My eyes have been opened to a whole new world of people just like me who are successful, and their stories of success aren’t told through a lens of overcoming but in terms of hearing loss being an important part of who they are. Learning of others who struggle with the same issues and who have the same questions that I do was impactful and has helped me in so many ways.
I am incredibly proud to be part of the Hard of Hearing community. This characteristic is a part of me that has helped me connect with issues in a way I wouldn’t have been able to if I had “normal” hearing and has helped me empathize better with others. Not only that but being Hard of Hearing deeply connects me to our founder, Juliet Gordon Lowe who was deaf.
To my fellow Hard of Hearing Girl Scouts and community members: Know that you are not alone. I know sometimes it can be hard to walk into a room and ask for a seating change or ask to have someone to face a certain way so you can hear them better, but I promise you that it will all be worth it and that you can do it! Self-advocacy is SO important, and it does get easier over time. Trust me, I’ve been advocating for myself for years and it’s still hard sometimes. You can do absolutely anything you put your mind to, and I wholeheartedly and one hundred percent believe in you. Let’s go show the world all the things a D/deaf and/or Hard of Hearing Girl Scout can do!
- Minnesota Hands and Voices
- Mama Hu Hears
- Minnesota Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Division
- National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
- Jr. NAD