This happened about ten years ago as I was beginning to come to terms with my hearing loss. Those who have experienced a progressive hearing loss like mine will understand. When you grow up hearing, it sometimes takes a while to realize that you are no longer a ‘hearing’ person. I guess part of it is we still identify with hearing culture long after we’ve lost most of our hearing.
But anyway I was just learning about self-disclosure and trying on different labels– hard-of-hearing, deaf, etc.– when I glommed onto hearing-impaired. The nice thing about the phrase ‘hearing-impaired’ is it implies nothing about how you communicate. It seemed perfect. Hearing people understood the phrase way better than hard-of-hearing. (Please bear with me here if you find the phrase offensive. I‘m not done.)
So I was up in the mountains skiing one beautiful day. As I got off a ski lift, I felt so healthy and full of life. If you have ever seen the sunset reflect pink and gold against the snow, that’s the kind of day it was. And I was at the top of a mountain looking out over beautiful snow-colored valleys in every direction. Glorious– just glorious!
At that moment, I felt so lucky it was my hearing that went bad instead of my legs. I thought of all the wonderful things I could still do instead of what I could not do. WOW! I could ski! I could hike! I could swim! I could ride a bike! I could do ANYTHING!
Then it happened. A double- amputee whooshed by on a sit-ski. I still laugh when I think of it. THIS guy had no legs and he skied even better than me.
That‘s when I stopped telling people I was ‘hearing-impaired.’ Disability/impairment is all in your mind. Many times I’ve been told that I’m a good listener. I think it’s because I look people in the face when they’re talking. Go figure.