Hearing Aids Are Not A Fix

#21
As an individual with a progressive hearing loss, I have found that my adjustment to being Deaf has become a long-lived process. Losing sounds over time has been a definite struggle for me. I find myself clinging to the sounds that I can still "hear," but this makes me feel guilty for not accepting and being okay with being Deaf.
Over the past few weeks, I have come to the realization that I still struggle with being Deaf. It is not that I am not proud to be a part of Deaf Culture, but sometimes it would be so much easier to have the ability to hearing everything going on. Over the past several months I have started training in MMA and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). When training, it is vital for me to be able to understand my coaches to learn to defend myself and avoid injury. But being completely honest, having a hearing loss makes this a huge struggle. When instructors are demonstrating a hold/attack/submission in BJJ, they are unlikely to be facing me the entire time. I have to constantly move around while trying to piece together the fragments that I can catch of what the instructor says. I have no access to the feedback that teammates are calling out from the sidelines (which all my hearing counterparts have access to without a problem).
When I am in a conversation with somebody and am struggling to understand them, I often wished I could just sink into the floor. People often get frustrated when they are asked to repeat or clarify what they said several times. Or they say things like "it's nothing" or "I'll tell you later." Even though I know it is not my fault that I cannot understand them, I become frustrated because I want to. My hearing aids help me hear better, but this does not mean that I my brain can recognize and process these sounds, especially in noisy environments. Sometimes, I wish I could walk up to a hearing person, who doesn't know any sign language and have complete confidence that we could be able to talk back and forth without any frustration or communication breakdowns.
While many people say hearing aids and cochlear implants are a “fix” for hearing loss, this is simply not the case. The only thing that my hearing aids do is amplify sound. When I wear my hearing aids, I may be able to hear more things, but the sound is jumbled and hard to understand. The damage to my ears cannot be repaired, so the sound will never be as clear for me as it is for people who do not have damage in their ears or have a hearing loss. Additionally, my hearing loss is so severe that despite the use of hearing aids I still cannot hear many sounds.
It is hard for me to admit this but being Deaf has significantly impacted my self-confidence. I am much more hesitant to walk onto the mats to train because I know that I will be submitted if I look up to lipread to get advice. Despite my hearing aids, my hearing loss causes me to become more hesitant to go to busy places or restaurants where I know communication will be difficult. I am hesitant to walk down the sidewalk on a busy park path, as I cannot hear anybody approaching and have been run down before. Although hearing aids can help with the development of speech skills, they do not fix a hearing loss. Relying on hearing aids to be a fix, and only relying on residual hearing causes many issues for me.
While many of my friends are learning ASL, not many people in my life sign with much proficiency. I work online, but my boss and coworkers do not use ASL, nor does my family. For most of the day, I rely on my two hearing aids and ability to lipread to function in mainstream society.
Growing up without sign language and in a mainstream school, set me up for a life where I communicated orally. Unfortunately, this did not set me up to manage my hearing loss as it has continued to worsen as my ability to understand speech has diminished. My entire childhood was focused on sound, using my residual hearing, and my voice. Despite learning ASL and becoming more involved in the Deaf Community, I find myself wishing hearing aids were more of a fix than they are.
Have you considered an FM system for your instructors?
 

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