By Jennifer Beilis
I am hearing impaired and dealing with that and my other medical issues (perimenopause, polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid disease, and arthritis) has triggered anxiety and depression.
It was always difficult for me to know where a voice was coming from in the room. It was also hard to hear the person and be able to understand their speech. After being in denial for many years, I obtained hearing aids and began my advocacy journey for hearing loss. I learned what accommodations I needed and how to enforce them. Not everyone was nice about it, but most people were. It caused anxiety when people could not care to treat me nicely or in a professional way.
Many episodes of Meniere’s disease (vertigo) made me lose more hearing. I also have tinnitus, which is ringing in the ears. That alone can make someone very anxious. The only coping method is to use hearing aids and a sound machine or music to mask the ringing.
I would feel anxious and depressed from not knowing what someone said. What if it was actually important? Some of my accommodations include having the Iights on, using my hearing aids and an FM assistive listening device, and having interpreters when I need extra help. When I am teaching, I ask everyone to sit in the front of the classroom.
Living with hearing loss became even more challenging during COVID when people wore masks. It was impossible for me to figure out what someone was saying. I could not even hear what my doctors were saying! I had to ask the nurses to reiterate so I would not feel so left out.
Additionally, Zoom did not have closed captioning and that caused a lot of anxiety for me and other hearing-impaired people. Eventually through advocacy by the Hearing Loss Association of America, and everyone writing to Zoom, they now have closed captioning.
I teach American Sign Language on the college level, and now most of the classes are back to being in person, but some people still wear masks. Sometimes I have to ask students to sign or write down what they are saying. One student asked me why I do this and I realized I am helping others to grow as they learn to accept people with hearing loss.
It is also very hard when people talk quietly and refuse to repeat what they said or talk loudly enough for me to hear. When professionals refuse to do this it is important to find people who will treat you with respect and accommodate your needs.
As a result of my personal journey, I published the book Hear I Am to help others. I also give speeches on motivational and disability awareness to schools and libraries. It feels good to provide schools with information knowing I am helping them to assist students with disabilities and mental health conditions such as attention deficit disorder (ADD). I am currently writing a new book, Making Positive Changes, that I will publish and teach classes for as well.
In addition to teaching American Sign Language, Jennifer Beilis tutors students in psychology, special needs, and career services. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and dog Princess. She can be reached at Jenny08520@aol.com.
Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your story with our readers.
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