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My activation is finally imminent! My feelings shift rapidly between anticipation, reservation, nervousness and suppressed excitement. I have not heard a sound in my right ear for over 3 weeks now. I have noticed a shift in my thinking these past few weeks. I find myself observing my surroundings and questioning what things make noise. Some sounds I can recall from my youth, but most are left to my imagination.
The other in bed, I watched my ceiling fan spinning and tried to remember if it makes a sound.
When I see tree branches or leaves sway, I wonder what kind of sound they make.
When my 5 year old son gets really excited, he makes this crazy happy face, all teeth showing, eyes squinted and I wonder if he is squealing when he does it.
I wonder too, how bad my kid’s language is around the house… Hmm, they may not like having a mom who can hear..
I can’t wait to hear the trickling of water!
I am trying to keep my expectations realistic. One thing is for sure, no matter how bad things sound at first, it will be wonderful to finally have sound in that ear. Bring on the noise!!
How many times have you said or been asked “Are you listening to me?!” I am sure my own children (most of whom hear perfectly) could testify to the frequency of that phrase aimed in their direction. I bet you can think of people who hear perfectly but never seem to listen to what is being said (aren’t spouses and kids the obvious culprits?). Unlike the word “listen”, the word “hear” has a very anatomical connotation. After all, hearing is simply the sequence of sound entering our ears, after which our brain process and categorize it.
But the act of listening goes much deeper than the information we gather only through our audio channels. We can actually listen using any one of, or combinations of, our repertoire of senses.
Consider for a moment how we care for an infant. An infant is not able to express their needs using words, but if we use our 5 senses, we can often figure out what they need.
If we look at them, we may read their expressions.
If we smell them, we may figure out if they need a diaper change.
If we touch them, we may learn that they are cold.
If we lean in, we may hear their tummy gurgling uncomfortably.
If we take a sip of their baby bottle, we may discover that their milk is spoiled.
Unfortunate is the baby who’s parents only listen using their ears.
When I discovered that my ability to listen was actually enhanced due to my inability to hear, amazing changes began happening within my core. I began connecting to people on a much deeper level. I was able to read people much more accurately and emphasize with them with greater sensetivity. Do you listen using all 5 of your senses?
I challenge you to try listening to, rather than just hearing the rich stimuli that surrounds you. Try listening with your heart. You may be surprised by what you “hear”.
I will never forget the day I found myself.
I must ask you to pardon this lengthy post. I want you to understand my story, so you will know the background before reading my future posts.
At age 3, my mom began to notice that I was not responding to sounds like I had before. Over the next few years, my mom took me to various doctors, all of whom brushed off her concerns after a simple conversation with me, and told her I simply had “selective hearing” or “mother-deafness“. I was finally diagnosed, at age 6, with a sensory neural, progressive hearing loss. Upon hearing the news, my mother began tearing up. The doctor patted her gently on the shoulder and said “don’t worry Janet, although she will probably never graduate from high school, she is a cute little thing and will be okay“. At that moment, a fire was lit in my moms heart and she made it her mission to prove that doctor wrong.
I did fairly well throughout elementary school. I felt quite special when I was able to make the other kids jealous by telling them that my hearing aids were actually mini radios that played music in my ears all day long. Once I hit middle school, that story no longer held credibility and I began hiding my hearing aids and my hearing loss as well as I could. My peers thought I was stuck up and uninterested. I let them think that because I was too ashamed to let them know that, in reality, I could not hear them.
Over the course of the next two years my confidence and self-esteem plummeted. I felt isolated and alone. Most days I would return home from school in tears. My hearing was deteriorating rapidly and I was failing my classes. A sign language interpreter could have helped, except that doctors had told my parents not to allow me to learn sign, saying if they did, I would stop talking. Assuming the doctors knew better than they did, they followed that misguided advice and sign language was never learned.
Finally, at the end of eighth grade, as a last resort, my parents reluctantly agreed to take me to visit the school for the Deaf which was located in Gooding, Idaho, 2 hours away.
I will never forget the moment I walked into that crowded cafeteria on campus. I had no idea what to expect. What I saw astounded me; a room FULL of kids like me. But there was one critical difference, they were smiling and laughing. Those who wore hearing aids exposed them comfortably, as though they were an afterthought. I will never forget all the hands moving, the beauty of sign language took my breath away.
I immediately turned to my parents and whispered “I need to go to the bathroom, NOW“. When I finally found a bathroom, I rushed to the mirror. I looked myself in the eyes as an awestruck smile crept over my face, and for the first time I reached up and pulled my hair gently into a ponytail at the back of my head. I made sure my hearing aids were fully visible before I came out of that bathroom and strode confidently back down the hall. My parents barely recognized the young girl who approached them.
That was the day I finally found Tara.
My name is Tara Adams. I have a progressive hearing loss and over the course of my lifetime I have experienced full hearing to profound deafness and every level of hearing loss in between. I am also the mother of a child with a hearing loss. On March 19th, 2015 I underwent surgery for a cochlear implant in my right ear. The purpose of this blog is to document my journey and share my thoughts and experiences related to hearing loss, sign language, sound, transition, outlook and discrimination. If you, your child, your spouse or anyone you know has any degree of hearing loss, I hope you will find my experiences, stories and opinions both informative and uplifting.