Life as Hard of Hearing

Mary , Pham

I was diagnosed with a hearing loss where I can’t hear on my right side at all while my other ear can hear very little. I have a hearing aid that helps me hear specifically bilateral crossing meaning my right hearing aid will pick the noise toward my left one which gives me almost full access as a hearing person. But it doesn’t help me all the time.


For example, in situations where I am in social events where there’s too many people, sometimes my hearing aid will pick up the background noise more than the person I’m talking to or in a group. I miss a lot of what they are saying which makes me feel a lot distant from them.


That is when I started to grow my insecurity as a hard of hearing person. I didn’t know where I belonged. I can’t say I’m deaf because I am not profoundly deaf or as a hearing person because I can’t hear as much as they can.


Imagine a person who is a mix of races. This person may struggle fitting in on her or his mom’s side who is Asian and on her or his dad’s side who is black. You never feel fully accepted in either culture


So throughout middle school it was really tough to go through that identity crisis. Mainly because I transferred to another school with no one that was like me and I was not used to this.


It looks different for everyone of course. Because every person has different hearing. Some will be fully deaf and can’t hear in both ears. Or have little hearing on both sides. So everyone will have different experiences with their hearing loss.


Luckily for me, I wasn’t completely alone because I am involved in this program for the deaf and hard of hearing. I was brought to Mountain View Elementary before I went to another school. My parents thought it would be best to put me in there so I can learn those around me. I can say this helps me recognize who I am. 


A DHH teacher, meaning deaf and hard of hearing teacher, Jamie Sissenstein would help advocate for me. I still have her but we would only meet 30 minutes every month.


In the previous years, I worked with her, meeting every week.  We would have IEP, which is called an individual education plan meeting. That usually decides how many minutes I need with the teacher. We discuss things I need to work on such as other kids with hearing disabilities too.


 It depends on the person and their improvement in school. They usually plan on working in some area, like advocacy, emotional support, speech, communication, and others that need to be worked on.


How a student would do that is depending on what they decide what they think is best for them including teachers and parents that also help as well. Some teachers will pull their students out of the classroom and work together for how many minutes they decide on their IEP. Or they may come into their classroom and help support in whatever they need.


My IEP for this year looks like I have only 30 minutes for every month with Jamie. And she would just come into my classroom and just check on how I am doing. Since this year is different because I have succeeded most of my goals, I have finished throughout the years. I don’t need the services that I have used in the past.


I am starting to learn how to do things on my own without having an interpreter since I feel like I do well with a microphone device that just helps me the same as them. And this year I am starting to feel more independent.


Thanks for this support, it helps me learn how to speak up and how to communicate with other people. It varies depending on what kids feel like using. I use ASL which is American Sign Language, I don’t use it too much. I mostly use my voice to talk to other people. 


Typically a lot of deaf people mainly use sign language to communicate with others. There are some students who use AAC which is an augmentative and alternative communication device used for kids who can’t do voice or sign. Others may even lip read to understand and communicate with people. 


Seeing how these people learn is like the same thing as hearing people. They use their hearing and their voice to express them while deaf and hard of hearing uses their hands and eyes. Which is important to know because society thinks people with hearing loss are incapable of being successful which is sad that we can’t look at it from another perspective. We have difficulty relating to others who are different from ourselves.


Parents would go through a grieving process when they found out their child cannot hear. They feel like their child will have a miserable life and will not be able to find a job. Which is definitely not true.


There are so many successful people like Eveyln Glennie who is a Grammy winner who has been profoundly deaf since she was twelve years old. Beethoven is another successful famous composer that helped create many amazing songs even after he became deaf. That didn’t stop him from his passion.


Seeing how these possibilities can be achieved is important to realize that just because you are born with something that makes you different, shouldn’t stop you from reaching your dream goals. 


We learn how to adapt to our ability to do things in order to accomplish our purpose of life. Sometimes we will have some obstacles that will make our life a bit more challenging, but we can always accommodate our needs in order to be successful.


This is the same concept as hearing people and they are trying to figure out how to achieve their goals as well. So we all are basically in the same boat.


But we as DHH will need the school teachers to help in any way because some of us can have a hard time speaking up for ourselves. That can go in the part of IEP which is advocacy. Like me, who worked on trying to learn, asking for help whenever I have questions and being independent . Of course this looks differently for everyone else. So it is always important to understand what a student’s needs are.


Unfortunately we may have to go through life without things that are not accessible to us. People will sometimes ignore and lack knowledge about your needs. This is a challenge most people have struggled with. 


For example, you know when you go through your drive through for any fast food, and of course we can’t hear through the speaker so when we drive up, many deaf people would write on paper and give to employees. They make it complicated even though the order is on the paper.


Or when you go to college and you request an interpreter from the teacher, say that you need an interpreter or a simple request like sitting in the front of the classroom so you can be near the teacher to be able to hear. But they deny, thinking you don’t need it. 


Movies with needed “CC ” meaning closed captions, and are unavailable for that day makes the experiences unfair in comparison to non disable people.


These are the things that many people will go through and it’s not easy. But we do have the right to receive these accommodations because according to the American with Disabilities Act(ADA).  The law states people are entitled to the same service that is provided for anyone. Meaning we can’t be excluded from things that shouldn’t make us feel different. Discrimination in any matter is never acceptable.


What can you do to help them not feel different? Well the things I love what people do for me is not treating me like I am incapable of doing things since people can be very ignorant. Another thing is patience. Sometimes we feel like we have to be perfect and act like we understand because it is bothersome to speak louder or repeating. 


Every life looks different of course with their ability to hear . Because first, our surroundings or environment looks different for everyone else. And I feel like there is a big toll between deaf and hard of hearing. Of course people who are hard of hearing will have some advantages.


There’s families that will have one deaf or hard of hearing child in a hearing family which is very common. It can be very difficult depending on their family but some will not try to learn asl to connect with their own kid. During this time, a lot of kids will feel lonely and some will feel disconnected from their own families.


There are others that will have the entire family that is deaf. That is very lucky to live in because you have people that can be there for you when you are going through a hard time and understand your struggles.


I live in a family with some hard of hearing members like my dad and my brother. But they are not very involved in the DHH community  as they don’t know any sign language mainly because their first language is Vietnamese. So at home, we would communicate just by yelling at each other. Having a loud tv up to max volume. Yeah you guessed, it is a very noisy home.


So I can feel like I’m a normal kid whenever I’m at home because my family makes me feel not any different and I am grateful for that.


I know that many people will not know what deaf means or hard of hearing is and that’s okay. My goal is to make people realize that we are capable of being successful and can do anything. Recognizing our value as a DHH community.