This I Believe

Shelli - Scottsdale, Arizona
Entered on May 6, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: disability

A Hidden Disability

I am not confined to a wheelchair, needing assistance with every move, but I do have a disability. I am not in braces or use crutches to help me maneuver about, but I do have a disability. No, I don’t need a seeing-eye dog or read books using Braille or use a stick to tell me if objects are in my way, but I do have a disability. I am a bright and articulate teenager and have many dreams to fulfill, and goals to meet, yet I have a disability. You see, at two and a half years old I was diagnosed as hearing impaired with a bilateral (both ears) hearing loss. This is a low-incidence disability that you are unable to visually see, that is if my hair is down and not in a ponytail to hide my hearing-aids. My hearing loss is categorized as a sensorineural hearing loss which involves the cranial nerve or the auditory portion of the brain. This disability interferes with acquisition of spoken language and social skills which has required support services in school and technical adaptation as part of rehabilitation.

People with hearing impairments have varying amounts of hearing loss which varies from day to day or from one situation to another. I also rely on lip-reading and I have to look at the speakers’ face during conversations. A quote from Helen Keller- “Blindness cuts you off from things; deafness cut you off from people,” which is so true…people do not understand this disability and I always feel as though I’m an experiment in certain situations. Typically, others feel if they yell loud enough I would be able to hear better or if I have hearing-aids I can hear with their backs towards me. In essence people seem to shy away because of my disability.

Being hearing impaired has many frustrations especially in the classroom. Teachers do not understand the special needs of a hearing impaired student. An analogy is like being in a rowboat where everyone in the boat needs to row together to get past those strong currents, but instead I feel as though I am the only one rowing correctly where everyone else is rowing in different directions and we are still out in the middle of the lake. This I do believe is that I am very happy as a person and with who I am, but very unhappy with the world around me who do not understand or take the time to understand this hidden disability.