I am not hearing impaired. But I do have a hearing impairment.
See what I did there? A small change in phrasing, replacing ‘I am’ with ‘I have’ makes all the difference.
There were times when I would have to let people know about my hearing loss up front – in conference calls, big group meetings, telling a teacher before a class etc.
Throughout elementary school, high school and part of university, I brought up my hearing loss by saying ‘I am hearing impaired’. I never felt comfortable saying that. I wasn’t sure why. As far as I was aware, I was hearing impaired!
Initially, I thought my discomfort came from the fact that I never liked exposing the fact that I was a little different from my peers, or that I might require special accommodations. As I grew more comfortable talking about my hearing loss, I still found it unsettling to say ‘I am hearing impaired’.
It wasn’t until meeting one of my writing professors (I studied professional writing and communication at university) that it became clear why I never liked saying it.
It was my first class of the semester, and I had to do my traditional, ‘tell the professor that I am hearing impaired, and that they might have to speak louder in class’ speech.
Here is how it went down:
I approached my new professor at the end of the first class.
“Hi professor, do you have a moment?”
He turned to me. “Sure, what’s up?”
“I just wanted to let you know that I am hearing impaired – “
“No,” he interrupted me. My eyes widened.
“No,” he said again. “You are not hearing impaired. You have a hearing impairment.”
He was absolutely right.
Whenever I said, ‘I am hearing impaired’, it implied that was who I am.
There is more to me than my hearing impairment. Since then, when I have to bring up my hearing loss, I say that I have a hearing impairment. That feeling of unease I used to get after telling people disappeared, and I said it with more confidence too.
I am a writer. I am a caring friend. I am passionate about advocacy. I am a huge fan of Harry Potter. But I am not hearing impaired. Everything that I said I am defines a part of my personality, and is what I choose to be of my own volition.
My hearing impairment was not a choice. It is something that I have and it does not define me.
To my readers with hearing loss, how do you tell others about your hearing loss?