Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How Would You Encourage a Teenager With Hearing Loss?

Ten years ago I was a college student struggling to hear and take notes in class. Today I returned to my Alma Mater, the University of Tennessee, to speak to graduate students in a Cochlear Implant class. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be a CI recipient OR be speaking in front of a class at a university. A big thank you (again!) goes to Cochlear for making the technology available so others can hear!

My presentation went better than expected and the students were very attentive and had some good questions for me. Which made it easier to share things that I would not have originally presented or thought of. I shared my hearing journey with them, which included discussing some difficult times during my teenage years. One of the questions they asked me was, "How would you encourage a teenager today with a hearing loss who is depressed, isolated, or doesn't want to wear a hearing aid or work with a cochlear implant?" I had to think about that for a minute and said that was a hard one to answer. And have been pondering it ever since.

When I was a teenager in the 60's and 70's, life was hard. Peer pressure reared its ugly head and I felt very isolated. Had very few friends because I talked funny and couldn't hear very well. Was labeled a "snob" many times because I did not respond when my name was called. I felt suicidal at times.  I couldn't talk on the phone and if I wanted to communicate with someone, I had to do it by snail mail or in person. I just wanted someone to listen to me and validate my feelings. And just wanted to have a sense of belonging. Thankfully, I had a wonderful family and support system at home. But not every teenager has that in today's world.

Today, the Internet & technology has made it possible for teenagers to have immediate results and communication skills, something many of us did not have as teenagers. The social media has broken down those barriers of communication and make it possible for the deaf & hard of hearing to connect with the outside world. But instant results when it comes to hearing & understanding with a hearing aid or cochlear implant is a different story. The results are not always immediate and take time.  Working with a hearing aid or cochlear implant is like any other tool and have a learning curve associated with them. Practice and patience is the key to success.

I feel that increased independence leads to a richer life with a purpose. Many of us CI recipients can attest to that. I would encourage parents, audiologists, & medical professionals to learn how to encourage them in a positive way.  They need to know that they are special just the way they are and have a purpose in life. Listen to them, love them, embrace them, & plant seeds of hope so that they can make a difference in their world and for those around them. And pray for them, too. When you do that for them, you give them the power & courage to live a confident, healthy, & positive life.

How would you answer the question? Looking forward to hearing your answers!


EmmaVerdona124 said...

I would encourage these people like me to believe in themselves and not be afraid to speak up!

I'm also a teen with hearing loss BTW

Anonymous said...

I think independence is not restricted to people who have an implant or use a hearing aid. I might even go so far as to say that the sense of hearing has nothing to do with your sense of identity, or your belief in yourself. Hearing people get suicidal and isolated, as well, regardless of how many friends they have or how "different" they are.

In the end, the purpose of one's life is characterized by one's sense of self, not by A sense.

Just my two cents (no pun intended).

So in the end, I suppose the answer to the question is for him/her to a) find a niche, b) don't be afraid to approach and speak to people (and speaking could mean a lot more than in the oral sense)--people admire you because of confidence; it has nothing to do with a "funny" voice. People will always love to accommodate you if they like you.

Sam said...

You have pretty much hit the nail on the head. I probably would encourage someone by putting them in contact with someone who has been there. But on the other hand, someone like you is a perfect role model in every sense! I am so inspired by you as I have been for over 3 years! :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Laurie, GREAT Blog! I wanted to drop a line to let you know that I'm adding a link to your blog from mine. I've recently begun to share my experiences as a bi-lateral CI recipient over at

Check it out when you have time!


yerba mate said...

nice work!!

lovesoftball65 said...

I am also a person that is hearing impaired and wears a cochlear implant.
In school I only had a few friends because i was so different from others and would get made fun of, but they have no idea what it's like to be deaf.

I would encourage these people to be positive about themselves and not be afraid to stand for yourself.

Jeanne Ward said...

I think it is going to be hard to encourage a teenager with hearing loss if you don't have enough courage and knowledge about them. You need to understand them so that they will understand you.

hearing device Royal Oak MI

Anonymous said...

I came across your blog by chance, and I have to say that this post was really interesting. Thankyou for writing about Hearing Loss and the Cochlear Implant. I am fascinated by CI technology, and am currently trying to learn ASL. I look forward to reading more of your posts in the future.
As for how I would encourage a teenager with hearing loss, it would be the same answer as for any teenager facing any challenge. It's up to you to find the beauty of the world in a way that speaks to part of your soul. That's something everybody's soul can hear: Beauty..