Siblings and Hearing Loss

When I was at the VOICE conference in May, I met a lot of siblings – either siblings that were all hard of hearing, or when one sibling was and the other wasn’t.

There was a panel at the conference centred around siblings – specifically situations where one sibling had no hearing loss and the other one did.  The participants in the panel were the ones without hearing loss and they answered a series of questions on how their sibling’s hearing loss affected their relationship, both negatively and positively.

It was really interesting hearing their perspectives and it got me thinking about my own relationship with my brother, A.J.

Both A.J. and I have hearing loss. I reflected a lot on our relationship and how it was impacted by hearing loss. But first, here’s some background history on A.J and I.

Screenshot_2019-11-30 Karina ( karinacotran) • Instagram photos and videos

A.J. and I

Background History

  • I’m the older sibling; A.J. is younger than me by three years.
  • I was born three months early and have profound hearing loss in both ears; A.J. was born a month early and has profound hearing loss in one ear and moderate hearing loss in the other.
  • I wear a cochlear implant on one ear; A.J. wears a cochlear implant on one ear, and a hearing aid on the other.

Now that we have the hard facts, here are some fun facts!

  • A.J. and I are exactly three years apart. Yep, you read that right. We both have the same birthday (I couldn’t even get a birthday to myself…)
  • Everyone always thinks A.J. is the older sibling. His 6’0″ towers over my 5’2”. Throwback to the time when I was taller than him…back when I was ten years old.
  • I can lip read like a champ; A.J. can’t.
  • A.J. hears better than I can, which is something I can be a bit jealous of at times. But more on that later.
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While A.J. was being born, I was drowning in the ball pit at Chuck E. Cheese.

When I was writing this, I wanted to get A.J.’s perspective on how our relationship was impacted by our hearing loss. It was kind of weird. We realized that we never actually talked about it.

We reminisced a bit on how we used to share dry boxes (cochlear implants don’t react well in humidity so at night we kept them in these dry boxes) and cochlear implant batteries. It was always a lifesaver especially if we were out and one of us forgot to bring a spare pack of batteries.

After some talking, we did realize that our relationship wasn’t really that impacted by our hearing loss. We never really felt the need to talk about it! But, three things were brought up over the course of this conversation.

My Jealousy

I used to be jealous of A.J.’s hearing loss. More specifically, I used to be jealous because he can hear better than I can. I remember watching him talking on the phone and feeling envious because he made it look so easy – whereas I on the other hand had a difficult time with it.

He was able to hear better in louder settings and his deaf accent was nonexistent compared to mine. I remember wishing that I could hear like he did – because all those little things just seemed to make things easier, and I wanted that.

Now, I’m not jealous anymore. I’ve accepted that it is what it is, and that we both need to adapt to what we were given. Just like how I’m accepting that I’m always going to look like the younger sibling – which is a hard pill for me to swallow, believe me.

Relationships and Hearing Loss

This is the one and only time A.J. asked me for advice, so I needed to give this a mention. It was coincidentally related to our hearing loss!

He was trying online dating once and asked me if he should let someone know that he has hearing loss before he meets them. I actually had the same thought!

After I got over the fact that he was asking me for advice (I’m such a sucker I know), I told him that if they react badly to the news, he’ll know that they aren’t the right person for him. I also said that the whole point of dating is to get to know the other person, and that his hearing loss isn’t who he is.

My Blog

A.J. reads every single one of my blog posts and he’s actually come up to me afterwards with comments – like how he thought that one scenario or post was really relatable. I was surprised because I never knew that A.J. felt the same way about certain things.

It felt nice to know that my blog was able to open up a channel of conversation that otherwise would not have been brought up.

So, there you have it! A.J. and I never really talked about our hearing loss, but as we grow older, it’s not a subject that we avoid.

To end this on a cheesy note, as much as we like to rag on each other, I wouldn’t wish for any other sibling – even though he’s been taller than me since I was ten years old.

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