I follow a blog written by a woman, Shari Eberts, that is dedicated to issues about living with hearing loss – the name of her blog. I highly recommend it whether or not you have hearing loss. A huge portion of the American population suffers from some degree of hearing loss and among the resulting effects of that loss is isolation, loneliness, even dementia to name a few. Someone you know suffers from treatable hearing loss. Sometimes that untreated hearing loss is profound and it is kept secret for a variety of reasons.

On a recent blog Shari mentioned being on vacation when both of her hearing aids suddenly failed. Her experience was instructive for those of us who are profoundly deaf and depend on technology to relate to the world. The following is my response to her blog.

Shari, I can’t think of a more unsettling experience than to be on vacation and loose hearing. As others have reported, removing my “appliances” at night plunges me into complete sound darkness. Every night as I prepare to go silent, I am reminded that I AM DISABLED! For years I resisted that truth largely because my HAs kept me in he normal range of performance – even to appreciate music! Then one day before I inserted my little instruments I realized I could not hear the water as I filled the coffee pot. I thought, “I’m not just hearing impaired – I’m deaf!”

Your comment about feeling at risk when deaf and out on the street was instructive. Without auditory clues the mystery of our environment goes unsolved. Even with all the technology hanging on my head, I often find myself in situations where I feel challenged just to know what’s happening. Quite honestly, it’s frightening to consider what it would be like without my instruments.

There are several places on-line where people with some degree of hearing loss share their experiences and advise with each other. There is a dedicated FaceBook group that you can join. then there is a forum that is produced by Advanced Bionics, a leading maker of cochlear Implant technology and the maker of the device I use. The forum is called Hearing Journey and can be joined by anyone with an interest in hearing loss and it’s treatment. Hearing Journey (HJ) can be accessed through the Advanced Bionics web site – www.acvancedbionics.com.

There is a time every day when I experience total deafness. I remove my hearing aid and the external sound processor component of my cochlear implant when I go to sleep. I have slept through violent thunder storms and ringing phones. My watch has a vibrating alarm feature that can wake me. There are other safety items that I am installing but the point is this: coming to grips with what can only be described as a severe physical disability has taken most of a year – how much more difficult must it be for others to realize? Hearing loss / deafness is an invisible disability.

There is a famous photograph, which you may know, by Paul
Strand. It is of a street person standing against a building with a sign around her neck with the word “BLIND” written in block letters. Her eyes are vacant and obviously useless. Even without the sign her condition would be clear.

But how would you know if someone were deaf? A sign hanging around the neck would be a dead giveaway. I’l’ll talk about that in a future post. Meanwhile, what do you think? What are the clues someone might reveal that would signal a hearing deficiency?

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