Hearing Loss: The Lived Experience

The panel accepted questions from the crowd. Photo Credit / Amy Lukac
The panel accepted questions from the crowd. Photo Credit / Amy Lukac

Amy Lukac
Opinion Editor

“There are two worlds:the deaf world and the hearing world. There are some people in the deaf community that feel that hearing people look down on us,” said deaf actor, Sean Berdy.

On Thursday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m., ESU held a conference-like event for students and the community to learn more about living with hearing loss.

On the stage, Dr. Susan Dillmuth-Miller, Assistant Professor of Speech-Language Pathology as well as a Clinical Audiologist, allowed the audience to live in a deaf person’s world for a few minutes.

Dr. Miller gave the audience an “unfair spelling test” by using a simulation video to make us hear what it is like to not hear well.

There were 10 different words, and we had to write down the word we thought was said. In the end, very few got more than four correct.

Most people became frustrated and some were even caught peeking over on their friend’s paper. Can you imagine if that’s how you actually felt every day?

After the simulation, Dr. Miller gave us many statistics and visual examples of different hearing losses.

After we had our mini-lesson, Dr. Miller introduced four people to sit at the long table on the stage.

Our hard of hearing guests included: Vinny Bono, Byron Crone, Thomas Stocker and Thomas’ girlfriend, Ashley Weinberg.

“What do you wish hearing people knew when communicating with you?” an audience member asked the group.

“Personality. People may approach me and I may seem irritated or annoyed because of what I have to do to communicate,” said Bono.

“Be patient. And not to think the person is less intelligent because they have a hearing lost,” said Crone.

“Since you have a hearing loss, it doesn’t mean you’re less intelligent,” said Stocker.

Dr. Miller added that she has heard many deaf people say that they wish when they ask people to repeat something, they stop saying never mind.

The microphone was passed to another audience member.

“What were your experiences throughout school?”

“If you had anything that made you different (hearing aids) people would automatically come at you. You’re the easy target. I grew my hair out long so people didn’t have to see my hearing aids,” said Stocker.

“Middle school was tough. I had minor accommodations like extra time in tests. I never had the system where you know we would actually have meetings about what I need. I didn’t get hearing aids until high school. I was an invisible ghost in the classroom and educated myself,” said Bono.

“Even some teachers don’t know how to handle a person that was hard of hearing or deaf. They weren’t sure how to approach me. I was very shy back then,” said Crone.

The group of speakers talked about their first day of college and what the adjustment was like. Bono explained that college was a new world to him.

He took a long transition from high school to college. He explained that it was very hard because he would walk around in this big school and couldn’t ask people for directions because they wouldn’t understand him.

Basically, he had to visualize and map out the campus on his own.

Speech pathology major asked, “Many of us are speech pathology or audiologist majors. Do you have any advice for us?”

Stocker replied, “You have to understand that some of the things you try to teach patients, may not be picked up right away. Be patient.”

Dr. Miller had her own question, “What could future teachers do to help a person with hearing loss be comfortable in a class?”

“There’s one thing they can do- I know what helped me, maybe make an appointment to talk to them after class to have the student tell them what they need without having to say it in front of the whole class,” Stocker answered.

There isn’t a magical cure to hearing loss, but there are devices that will help. Hearing aids help to an extent, and so do cochlear implants.

By definition, a cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear.

Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, cochlear implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain.

An audience member asked if any of the speakers considered a cochlear implant.

Bono said that he is considering it now but only in his left ear. He hopes for success.

Crone never thought about it. He talked to Bono about the cost and realized that it was a financial burden.

Stocker also never thought about it, especially because his ability to read lips became very skillful.

Because Stocker and Weinberg are a couple, a curious audience member asked if they have more relationship problems other than the typical relationship drama because of his deafness.

“Well,” said Weinberg, “there is definitely the normal relationship problems where you are just kind of sitting, hanging out and then…” Stocker interrupted, “I’m a pain in the butt.”

Weinberg continued, “And then the next second you are all of a sudden like, get out of my face. Go to your room. But it definitely takes a lot more patience because of the hearing loss. Some people don’t have that patience but it definitely takes time to grow it. We have been together for a little over two years now, so it took time to get used to it.”

As the “conference” was coming to an end, Bono finished with a powerful speech: “I would like to say that deficits and disability should not be looked at as a bad thing. People shouldn’t have to feel sorry for us because well, this is how I look at it… You lose something, like you lose your hearing or your sight, but that allows you to open up to something else. Like, we can’t hear, so it allows us to open our eyes more and look around and, you know, see things for what they are.”

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