I was approached by one of my coworkers the other day. He asked to come in my room and shut the door. He seemed very serious and secretive. He told me he was finally ready. I smiled, while quickly racking through my mental files of any recent conversations we had, trying to figure out what he was ready for. As the seconds passed, I realized I had no clue and could not pretend to.
"Great," I said." Ready for what?"
" Getting hearing aids," he nearly whispered, looking down.
In that moment, I saw shame and sadness in his eyes. It was as if he was admitting to a crime or an addiction.
"Oh, good." I smiled, trying to ease his pain and encourage him. " How can I help?"
He looked up and let out an audible sigh; it was like he felt better now that he said it out loud. I think he felt better yet that I did not laugh. He shared that 10 years ago the Ear/ Nose and Throat dr. Told him he had a moderate hearing loss and he needed aids.
' 10 years ago?!' I thought. ' How could you deal with misunderstanding and try to pretend for so long?' I wondered. In talking to him, I figured put that he felt getting aids would be an embarrassment, something only old people get, and just so wrong.
We chatted for a bit. I told him how there are so many kinds, how much better it will be of he can hear his wife,etc. I told him how there are wireless headsets for the TV, so he can listen to his program at his loudness level and she can listen at hers. I told him about a retired teacher here who had aids. I told him about an incredible author, Shanna Groves, www.lipreadingmom.com, who recently started a "Show Me Your Ears" campaign.
I got him a few recommendations of audiologists and ENT's, which was what he asked for. I also believe I got him a bit of pride and confidence back. I am excited to see how his journey unfolds. Maybe he will even let me take a picture of him in his aids down the road.
As always, my purpose in this field is to help people with hearing loss realize that is one part of them. If they can embrace it, fabulous,but if they at least can accept it, great!
Allison Schley has been in the field of deaf and hard of hearing education for 20 years. She founded a nonprofit for families with hearing loss. She most recently wrote a children's book, entitled Forever Friends. This book shows the how a deaf dog and deaf boy teach the world that all kids are good and being deaf is okay.