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Celebrating the Adventures of Hearing Loss

For those with hearing loss, most career and social obstacles have to be navigated in a more strategic way

Hearing impaired man working with laptop


Exciting new opportunities, as well as challenges, await those with hearing loss.

En español | "Hearing loss is such an adventure," a new acquaintance wrote to me not long ago.

Wow, I thought, that is certainly a new way to look at it.

Many people talk about hearing loss as a journey, as they travel from denial to anger to bargaining to depression to acceptance.

But an adventure? That suggests exciting new opportunities and challenges.

This person had a severe drop in her hearing in her 30s. "Many doors I had intended to open and travel through closed," she told me.

This often happens to people with severe or sudden hearing loss. Career pathways can be blocked, but many people also realize that most career and social obstacles simply have to be navigated in a more strategic way.

In my friend's case, she talked about the doors that opened because of her hearing loss. She became an active member of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA). She met many new people and became involved in efforts to ensure that the rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act were applied to those with hearing loss, as well as to those with more obvious disabilities.

She traveled as part of her advocacy work, helping to educate people, and pushed herself to learn new technology to help her hear better. She also encountered stigma and, by example, helped defeat it. And, of course, she struggled to hear.

"To be honest," she wrote, "my adventures with hearing loss have not all been enjoyable. However, they have challenged me to learn things I would never have been interested in learning about otherwise."

In this holiday season, I want to celebrate my friend for her positive attitude and for pointing out the benefits that can come with disability — the intense satisfaction of overcoming obstacles, the sense of achievement that comes with learning about new technology and the gratification of helping to effect change for the good.

The hearing loss journey is an ongoing one. One's hearing may continue to deteriorate, but opportunities and technology continue to improve. The challenge to try one more new device, to venture out to one more event, can sometimes seem overwhelming. But from now on, I'm going to think of it as an adventure.

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