Losing My Senses
Coping with the effects of hearing loss
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In May of my fourth-grade-year, I came home from school and told my mom that I had gone to the nurse because I felt dizzy and my ear was bothering me. She took me to the pediatrician who said I had fluid in my ear, that it was not an infection, and there was really nothing to worry about. I was given steroids for the inflammation, and the fluid was supposed to be gone within a few weeks.
The fluid did not go away as quickly as expected, and when it did, the hearing in my left ear went too. I was sent to a specialist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear to have to have testing done. My mother and I were told that I had gotten a virus called acute labyrinthitis, and it had left me with permanent hearing loss. There was only about 10 percent hearing left in one ear, which meant I was practically deaf in my left ear.
I remember my mother asking the specialist what to do next and if it could be reversed or fixed, but the specialist said that there was nothing to be done, and that he was sorry.
We got a second opinion at a different Boston hospital, but the terrifying results were the same. I did not realize at the time the impact it would have on my life. At first, I tried to go on as if nothing had changed, but as time went on, life got harder. I had trouble hearing what was going on in the classroom, and I was afraid of missing homework assignments.
In addition to being anxious in school, social events scared me because I often could not hear who I was with. Even something as simple as carpooling to school with my friend changed, and I found myself having to position myself to where I could hear her. Being aware of my positioning is something I had to be aware of, making sure I was sitting on the left side of my friends if I wanted to talk to them. The everyday effects of my hearing loss became something I was very conscious of both inside and outside of school. Even playing basketball was harder; I couldn’t hear the coach calling plays or my teammates trying to communicate with me on the court.
Because of all this, I became extremely nervous, and even at times embarrassed. On the court, referees would be telling me I was stepping out of bounds, or that I was about to make a penalty towards the other team, but I couldn’t hear any of it. Many times, I had to explain to people that I was not ignoring them, I just could not hear them. Sometimes people thought I did not like them, or that I was angry with them, but the truth was that when it came to the point of having to explain myself, I became embarrassed or very agitated with my disability. So, I often felt isolated.
By the age of 12, I had learned to read lips, but in settings where there were a lot of people, it would be extremely hard to have a conversation. As a result, I hated going to the South Shore Plaza, because there would be so many people there. There were so many noises and things going on around me, and I could not read people’s lips as well as I could in a one-on-one conversation. So instead of attempting to move so I could hear them, or ask who I was with to repeat what they said over and over, I would just stay quiet, or even push to leave because I felt like I would be too annoying.
By eighth-grade, these emotions of oblivion and isolation began to swell and build up inside of me. I became depressed, and my anxiety became almost unbearable. I dreaded getting up in the morning, and I often did not. I had panic attacks anytime I would even see the Frolio Middle School, and I was not even sure what I was afraid of.
Now, in high school, even though I am not perfectly coping with my hearing loss, my faith constantly helps me. I find extreme comfort in knowing that God has my back. I also find that if I try my best to fix my problems but cannot, asking others for help is not a bad thing. I have learned that regardless of what troubles come a person’s way, if they reach out there will be a solution. A lot of the time the answers to problems will not be easy to reach. But, I can begin by asking for help from people who care.
At Abington High, there are some wonderful people that are more than willing to help. Guidance Counselors Ms. Ferioli, Ms. Sweeney and Ms. McGinness, as well as our school psychologist Ms. Posk, all are available to talk and listen to any problems that anyone may have. The teachers are also always accessible to chat with any time. There are so many people willing to help high school students, and asking for help is never something anyone should see as a bad thing.