“Blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.” ~ Hellen Keller
Hearing loss isn’t uncommon. In fact, it occurs in a large portion of the adult population. In the US, hearing loss affects nearly 31.5 million people, or roughly 10% of the population—not an insignificant number. My mother is one of those 31 million. She was born with hearing loss and her hearing loss has been progressive over time. She is the reason I became an audiologist. I remember as a child thinking that my mom was very quiet and not very talkative. She wouldn’t often chime in on dinner conversations or comment on things I was talking about. She would even seem to be “in her own world” at times. It wasn’t until I was nearly an adult that it became clear to me that she was missing things—sometimes whole conversations. And, because she is such a kind and gentle spirit who wouldn’t ask anyone to go out of their way for her, she simply took a back seat to the conversation, content to just be in the same room as everyone else. But she would later ask one of us to repeat a part of the story, or ask my Dad to fill in the gaps she missed.
Come to find out, my mom wasn’t anything like I thought she was. In fact, with good working hearing aids, she began to travel extensively and speak to large groups of women. She calls and we’ll talk for long periods of time on the phone. My mom is an amazingly bright, deeply spiritual and extremely talkative person! And I didn’t even know it! My mom’s story is a typical one, unfortunately and I see stories like hers in action every day. I love knowing who my mom is. I love being able to communicate and connect with her. Everyone deserves to experience those connections with loved ones and friends.
Being able to hear is what ties us together. It’s not surprising that those who experience hearing loss often also experience fear, sadness, anxiety, denial and even depression. We have the opportunity, the privilege and I will go so far as to say that we have the awesome responsibility to help those with hearing loss have every opportunity to build strong relationships with those they love and to interact with the world around them as they so choose.