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I have been hard of hearing my entire life. But for the longest time, I didn't know that that was my problem. All I did know was that I didn't feel like I "fit in", especially as I went through the grades in school. I was always the child in the group of kids who didn't know what was being said... who didn't laugh when the other kids laughed but would laugh because they were all laughing because I knew I should be. I was the child who was always saying "What???" "Huh????" "Excuse me???" Seldom do other children repeat themselves for you. After awhile I just stopped saying it and resigned myself to not "fitting in". This caused a whole host of other problems as I got older. I just wanted to "fit in" with my peers.
It wasn't until my 3rd grade year that I got my first hearing test. A lady came into our classroom, and one by one we were sent out in the hallway for a hearing test. A few weeks later we were each given a slip of paper to take home to our parents but I never read what it said. All I do know is that same lady came back and gave a few children in our class another repeat test and my name was called. Every year after that my name was called for a second test and by my 6th grade year I knew I should automatically stand up because my name would no doubt be called when the hearing test lady came back that second time. The thing is... nothing was ever done about my failed tests.
I continued to go through the grades and felt more and more isolated. Junior High was especially difficult as kids started "paring off" into groups of peers they socialized with. As all kids do, I wanted to be popular and tried to hang around with the popular kids, and they seemed to accept me and like me well enough... but seldom did I know what they were talking about. I laughed when everyone else laughed and tried my best to look and act "normal".
By High School, I had decided that I was just "different" and that I'd never fit in anywhere and never truly know what was going on. I knew I couldn't hear like everyone else seemed to but I never fully realized just how "well" others heard compared to me!
I won't even bother going into how difficult those early teen years were for me and how much I felt I did NOT fit in. Trying to learn subjects that I didn't excel in was very hard for me in that no matter how many times it was explained to me, not being able to hear most of the words and growing weary of asking my teacher or tutor to repeat themselves, I would just give up.
One thing I did excel at was writing. I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that it was the one way I could get my feelings out completely. I was my own "social network" and understood everything I said without having to repeat myself!! haa!!
Fast forward to 1996 when I happened to be working part time in the local health department. The lady that did the hearing tests for various school districts was in one day and we got to talking about hearing. I told her a little of my history. She suggested she give me a hearing test. I recall seeing her look up at me quite frequently as the test progressed but never really thought too much of it. I figured she was just really paying attention to me. It wasn't until we were finished when I saw the sad and surprised look on her face.
"How have you managed to get through life as well as you have?" She asked me. "What do you mean?" came my reply. She shook her head and told me I had "a 50% hearing loss in both ears." I almost began to cry. I knew it was bad but... FIFTY PERCENT???
She asked me why I hadn't had it checked before now and I told her I had as I went through the grades, but at no time had my mother ever said anything about my hearing being bad enough to need any help. She just shook her head and told me what a shame it was and and how she was so impressed that I had gotten as far as I had and done so as well as I had. I had just done the best I could. I told her how I "read lips" to a large extent... and how I'd gauge my behavior and reactions much of the time on facial expressions... voice tones or inflections and come up with as close as I could in my own mind to what I thought was being said. I explained to her how I had no health insurance and hadn't been able to have a hearing test done until now.
Fast forward to 1998 and a second test was done before some sinus surgery I was scheduled for. That test showed even more of a loss. Now I had insurance but my insurance would not cover the price of hearing aids. When I was given a hearing aid to try on I felt like a 5 year old on Christmas Day. My head whirled from side to side as I was bombarded with sounds I'd not heard before... my eyes were as wide as plates. The lady who was in the room with me got tears in her eyes, when she saw the tears in mine. I kept asking her to identify what different sounds were... "What is that sound?" Her reply... "Change being given in the next room." THAT MAKES NOISE?????
I didn't know that the computer "mouse" made a noise as you pushed it across the desk top. I didn't know that the mouse itself made a "click" when you right or left clicked it. So many noises from so many things. I didn't realize that anything being pushed across a desktop made a noise of some kind. I did suddenly realize what a quiet world I live in. My world.
It is now 2009. Today is my 56th birthday. I have been unemployed since last November. I haven't had health insurance since 2004 when I was fired from my job. In all, over the years since 1996 I've been fired 3 times. I've tried my best in each of those jobs... one lasted 3 years... one lasted 7 years and the last one lasted 4 years... but in the end... I get fired. Never am I told it's because of my hearing but I know that is a part of it. Employers and employees get tired of what happens when a co-worker or an employee can't hear. The mistakes that generates... the misunderstandings and hurt feelings.... I have gotten myself into so many embarrassing predicaments just trying to hide the fact that I can't hear. It has caused me emotional pain, and others as well.
I have pretty much decided that my world will always be this way. I don't know where to get help when I have no money to afford a hearing test, let alone the hearing aids that would change my life. I don't know how to "Sign". I don't feel like I fit in anywhere.
If there is any help for me out there I would sure like to know about it.
I remember very early in my life being able to hear birds. I haven't heard birds now in probably 30 years or more. For the longest time, I just figured all the birds that sang must've left or become extinct or weren't around when I was outside.... then one day a friend of mine who was sitting down by a lake with me remarked on how beautiful the birds were singing. "They are???? Where are they???" I said, looking around. She got a look of sadness on her face and pointed up toward some trees in the distance.... it was then I noticed them.... flitting from tree to tree... but I didn't hear a sound. Had she not shown me where to look I doubt I would have even seen them.
My name is Vickie and I am missing out on so much life. It makes me very very sad.