What I Wish People Understood About Hearing Loss

What I Wish People Understood About Hearing Loss

It’s not an obvious disability.

Educator Kathryn Roe lost her hearing as an adult.

Writing for the website The Mighty, she explains what it’s like to live with a disability that’s not always obvious:

For many people, disabilities are something visible, or something a teacher would encounter in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). That is true for some disabilities, but not for all.

I am hearing impaired. Being hearing impaired means having a nearly invisible disability, and having one that is often misunderstood.

I lost my hearing as an adult. I caught a cold and my ears never recovered. Yes, they did surgery, and no, it didn’t help. I was teaching at the college level at the time and I did not tell students or colleagues to begin with. As I discovered how little people understood hearing impairments and how much a lack of hearing affected the one with the impairment, I began to tell people. I would let classes know about my hearing impairment on the first day, but I wouldn’t always say something later on when I didn’t understand something someone was saying. I even had a couple of classes where students purposely would mock my inability to hear. (Gee, I wonder why I didn’t think those students should become teachers!)

I decided I needed to help future teachers understand hearing and not hearing better. I began to pass out foam ear plugs and encouraged students to try a class using one in one ear. Many were astonished how much diminished hearing in one ear could affect their comprehension of the class. I taught them a bit about how we hear and how we can lose part of our hearing. I taught them about what hearing aids can and cannot do. Many told me they’d always been taught that hearing aids meant the person could now hear like “normal.” Nothing could be further from the truth!

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