With four hundred million people worldwide with hearing loss, some things unite some of us, and that is our experiences. The behaviours I’ve seen repeatedly from people who have been mainstreamed since childhood are far too common. Those of us who were integrated into the hearing world have been mainstreamed. We lived daily without any contact or trace of seeing or knowing anyone with hearing loss just like us.
It is a lonely experience and one where history keeps repeating itself. Here are nine sure ways signs that you’ve been mainstreamed.
1. You have parents or caregivers that are hearing
Parents or caregivers who are hearing know what they know best. And that’s living within the hearing world. Either they had a lack of exposure or knowledge of Deaf culture. Or they decided that in their child’s best interest, they would help improve their child’s hearing by integrating them with more hearing experience.
2. You know little to no sign language
As a result of growing up in the hearing world, you only know your mother tongue. You probably spent more time in speech therapy than learning how to sign. Sign language was the thing that you saw very rarely. Your first glance at this unknown language could have been an odd stranger who thought you signed or something that you saw on TV.
3. You were hiding your hearing loss
When you’re the only one, your goal is to fit in. You felt a sense of shame for having a hearing loss. You do what you can to avoid anyone knowing about your hearing loss. The thing you most wanted was to belong.
4. You have a love-hate relationship with FM Systems
You may have been assigned a designated teacher at elementary who looked after your learning. These teachers set you up on the FM Systems. While useful to eavesdrop on your teacher in the staff room when they forget to turn off the microphone, these FM systems were a big embarrassment to you wearing this device over your neck in front of your peers.
5. You wear a hearing device
The first thing your parents did when you were diagnosed was to get your first pair of hearing aids, Baha or cochlear implants. You lived with it every day of your life. You would call in sick because you don’t know how to function when these devices break down and need repair.
6. You were the only one
You were the child who was hard of hearing or deaf. Your siblings and cousins’ experiences were far different from yours. Everyone close enough to you knows how to get your attention and thinks they know how you operate. They know little about your hearing loss unless they ask.
7. You’ve seen your audiologist within the last ten years
Unlike someone who is deaf, who doesn’t need to test their hearing regularly, you have a relationship with your audiologist or actively seek an audiologist every now and then. They are part of your life, and you periodically lean on them for anything related to hearing loss.
8. You can name an assistive device for every activity that you do
You live for technologies to help you make you more productive. You have one for your phone, your alarm, your work and your kids. There is a tech solution to help you hear better for about everything you do. It’s part of your DNA.
9. You’ve learned social cues well
Hearing is not easy; even with all the tech, things get missed. You know when you need to get someone to repeat, but often you know exactly what’s going on without needing to understand a word. You may even laugh or fake it just because you feel ashamed to ask again, or you can’t be bothered to really pick up what they are saying.
Communities like Lisnen are a great way to know our experiences’ similarities. Knowing we are not alone, we find the support and resources we need.
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