May 092018

I have been aware of people with hearing loss my whole life. When I was little, my uncle Sid would take out one of his hearing aids, hold it in his fist and make it trill from feedback. When my eyes opened wide with curiosity, he would tell me that there was a tiny little bird in his hearing aid that would talk to him and tell him what everyone was saying. 50 years later and I still love that memory. A silly fib that has stuck with me my whole life and now that I am dealing with my own hearing loss, it is a nice little touch stone that I can return to on the days when my own ears fail me.

What I didn’t know back then and have only come to realize as I navigate my own journey through hearing loss, is that there is so much more to losing ones hearing than just a slow decent into silence. For me, hearing loss has been anything but silent, rather it is a journey into the din. Along with not being able to hear at certain frequencies, I also have to deal tinnitus and hyperacusis. Together they combine to produce a trifecta of auditory grief that can make one’s day rather miserable. As my condition has progressed, I have come to simply want quiet, time away from noise that is beyond my control.

As a teacher, I have begun to find myself especially struggling with classroom noise and all that it entails. It isn’t as though my classroom is out of control. Sure, my class can be lively, but my entire career I have ran an interactive classroom, filled with laughter and kids being kids. Unfortunately I have come to a point where I just want to crawl into a dark quiet hole and find some reprieve from the very thing that I have spent a career enabling. As a means of dealing with my hearing issues in the classroom, it has been suggested to me that I adopt a more traditional style of teaching, an environment where I dole out information, kids take notes and all is quiet, but that is not a learning environment I want to foster. So as I enter the last 10 years of my career what do I do?

Fortunately my administration is supporting me as best they can and next year they have assembled a schedule that will be as quiet as they can possibly create, but at what point do I become a liability to my school? If my hearing loss progresses beyond where it is now, when am I no longer useful? It is something that is nagging at me on a daily basis and it is something that I could have never fathomed back when uncle Sid was telling me about tiny birds in his hearing aids.

I am beginning to understand the warning my audiologist gave me on the day I got my first audiogram. One of the greatest dangers to people who have hearing loss is isolation, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to fight the desire to just be left alone and not have to listen to anything. It will be interesting to see how the next 10 years play out. I am beginning to see my teaching future. Mr. Rispin, the miserable old deaf guy in room C231. Enter at your own risk.

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