Friday, April 16, 2010

Good Side vs. Bad Side

I have a hearing loss in my left ear. It’s really something I forget about at times as it’s been there my entire life so I don’t know any differently. I can’t remember what my mom said what the loss is, I think moderately severe? Basically if you talk in my left ear, I can’t hear you. Sometimes I try to perform “tests” to see what I can and can’t hear, but typically I can’t figure anything out since my right ear overcompensates. The audiologists/doctors when I was a kid were never able to pinpoint when the loss occurred, though I like to blame it on my traumatic birth (okay, it really wasn’t traumatic, but I did have a broken collar bone and have to be removed via forceps).

Over the past year or so, I’ve realized that I think this hearing loss has impacted me more than I thought. I blame the realization on CR and searching for information about unilateral hearing losses online (and for those who know I have issues with searching medical things online, I wasn’t looking at medical sites…more to better understand the psychological effects that have been found. It was enlightening).

Some of you may have had no idea this was a factor in my life as I don’t talk about it much. Why, would you ask? I hated it growing up. My mom always fought for me, which I greatly appreciate, but that led to me being put at the front of the classroom whereas I wanted to sit in the back (funny though, 10th grade was the first time I rebelled and sat in the back during Chemistry; I found out I couldn’t see! I think that also may be why I stink at Chem…). And I’ve had a reputation at times for being snobby purely because I couldn’t hear someone. I’ve been made fun of, some by kids, but a lot by adults. Let me just tell you, after learning someone has a hearing loss and responding with “what?” or “can you hear me now?” is NOT funny. It actually hurts a lot. And hence a big reason I have kept quiet. I also had a mean swim coach yell at me once for not hearing him…he got an earful from my dad after practice when he picked up his tearfully embarrassed 8th grade girl.

So, that’s a little of why I don’t share much. If you do know, I’m probably more comfortable with you. And you also may know I want everyone on my right side. Pretty much the only person I’m comfortable with having on my left in any remotely loud place is my mom because she’ll touch my arm when she is trying to get my attention. I’m not even sure if she realizes she does it, but it helps with the often embarrassment of someone thinking I’m ignoring them.

Okay, so, why am I bringing this up today? Well, last night was an experience that I’ve unfortunately had too many times in my life and one in which I pretty much broke down (there were outside circumstances, too, but the more I’ve reflected on it, the more I’ve realized my hearing issues contributed greatly). We had a bowling thing and, while I was in a funk when I arrived, I immediately felt myself shutting down because I felt as though I was in a room full of cotton.

I found this site one time that really helps put into perspective the life of a unilateral hearing loss sufferer. See, it takes extra energy for me in those situations as I have to try and push out the background noise AND listen to others. Yes, everyone has to do that, but imagine doing so with only one ear? This is partially why I tend to avoid these situations unless people are sitting right next to me. Add to that my already funk-like-state and enter perfect storm of uncomfortableness for Sarah. One blessing I had last night was the opportunity to talk about it further with my roommate, Katie, after I got home. She has a hearing loss, too! Ours are different, but to some degree a hearing loss is a hearing loss. Anyway, I was just thankful to have someone who understood and could validate the tendency to shut-down. And then when I saw it in this article, I was doubly encouraged! Oh and in case you're wondering, the type of loss I have could not be helped with hearing aids. It'd just make what I can hear louder and that's annoying (and unhelpful).

So, a few things for the next time you meet or run into a person with a unilateral hearing loss: don’t make jokes, be patient if we ask you to repeat a lot, appropriate physical touch helps, and don’t be weirded out if they move you to their other side, it’s just to hear you better. Feel enlightened? Probably not, but regardless, it’s a huge step for me to make a blog about this, just sayin.