I wondered why we all love listening to or reading personal hearing loss stories. What is it about these stories which inspire us? Is it because we compare our story and identify with them? Is it because we love to hear about how people have coped and overcome deafness in their lives? Or perhaps we like to know there is help for us, perhaps around the corner, in the way of a cochlear implant or baha or other device which will allow us to hear better?
According to Leone (Better Hearing Dec-10) the reason is because we ‘learn most about what hearing loss means to people’ and the emotional struggle they faced. She says of her attendance at two recent hearing loss conferences that ‘there were times….when I felt such empathy for those who were recounting their journeys that I felt close to tears.’ She finds it incredibly helpful to ask people about their cochlear implants and how it aids them. Leone has a Hybrid Cochlear implant. This is an implant which combines a hearing aid. This gives Leone a better hearing outcome than simply a Cochlear implant alone because some of her hearing is preserved and the hearing aid portion of the implant processor amplifies the sounds she can hear naturally.
Another friend sent me an email recently recounting the experiences she’s had since her baby son had a Cochlear Implant. It was hard not to be emotional as I learned that her son, who is now 16 months old, has the communication skills of the average 2 ˝ year old. What a delight. Where once these parents feared their child would be disadvantaged throughout life because of his deafness, he is now excelling – simply because he can hear. One highlight of this family’s year was to meet the Australian Governor General, Quentin Bryce and the inventor of the modern Cochlear Implant, Professor Graeme Clark.
Perhaps another reason when we read the stories of people who have a hearing loss, is through the written word can better pick up the emotion behind this loss – the way they felt, how they hurt. As a hearing impaired person talking to people is hard. We have to concentrate so hard on lip reading just to ‘hear’ the words, it isn’t always possible to pick up the nuances, to read between the lines and understand what people are going through.
It is my belief the reason the stories are so important is because it gives us a sense of community, knowing we are not alone. I for one, as I was going deaf, thought I was the only person in the world who had this problem. I was isolated from my hearing friendship networks and when I read a story in a magazine of a man who expressed exactly the feelings I had about his deafness, I felt less alone. It was the first time I had ever heard of anyone having the same problem as me. Reading of others who had the same problems, gave me a sense of identity which had been missing for a long, long time.
The are many personal hearing loss stories at the Cochlear Awareness Network web-site. Link below.