a group of grey lockers in a school – photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash
At first, I didn’t realize that I was losing my hearing. It started slow during my sophomore year in high school. I didn’t realize what was happening at first.
Looking back, there were several things that caused my hearing loss. Some of it was due to the abuse my parents inflicted on me from early childhood onward.
From the time I was about two or three years old, my parents made it clear that I was unwanted. I remember the words my mother would use whenever she got frustrated by my father.
“You ruined my life!,” she yelled at me. “I got pregnant with you and had to stop going to college because the smell in the lab made me nauseous. Your father had to stop going to the racetrack on Memorial Day because you came out early.”
At the time, I thought this was some kind of a fairy tale. She didn’t like when I joined in, saying those words with her. Eventually, she stopped.
My best guess is that my mother was angry that I existed because I had several disabilities. I was born breach, before my expected due date. My legs didn’t work properly at all, making it impossible to move them or start crawling. Eventually, my parents took me to a doctor, who suggested two potential solutions to my legs (which were typically folded up across the front of my body).
Solution one was to put me in a body cast to force my legs to grow in a healthy position. This would, of course, make it harder for my mother to change diapers. Solution two was to use disposable diapers and put three or more cloth diapers over them, which would make it easier on my mother.
In addition to my barely functional legs, I also had a heart murmur (which closed itself up years later) and ears that were visibly deformed. Each of my ears has a “chip” missing at the top corner, and both have a flat side that failed to finish the curved part most people have. They aren’t quite elf ears, but I was very self-conscious about them anyway.
Fast forward to high school, which was when I learned I had a bunch of food allergies. The early 1990’s didn’t have much information about what foods were safe for me to eat, and I ended up avoiding food for fear of getting sick at school.
My hearing loss snuck up on me during my sophomore year of high school. It was gradual, and slowly made my world much quieter. I couldn’t hear much of what my friends were saying to me, and somehow figured out lip-reading.
One day, I was sitting in class, and I couldn’t hear a thing. A friend sitting at a desk in the next row gave me a shove. “The teacher called on you three times! Didn’t you hear her?” my friend asked me. I shook my head “no.”
My best guess is that teacher went to talk to the guidance counselor, who must have talked to my mother (who was a teacher’s aide at the school). I remember my grandmother – my father’s mother – – yelling at my mother about something I couldn’t hear. They seemed to be fighting with each other.
This eventually led to my mother taking me to get my hearing checked. She clearly didn’t want to do that at all. The early 1990’s didn’t have the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare”, and doctor’s visits were expensive.
The doctor put me in a little booth and asked me to raise my hand when I hear a “beep” noise. I wasn’t hearing much of anything at all, and started raising my hand to “phantom” beeps that were not there.
When this was done, the doctor turned his back to me and started speaking to my mother. I couldn’t see what he was saying, but noticed that my mother had an absolutely irate look on her face. We went home with some paperwork showing how low my hearing was.
My grandmother, who lived with us and loved me dearly, was the one who took me to a different doctor to get my ears irrigated. A nurse looked into my ears and noticed a severe blockage of wax in both. She asked me to remove my clip-on earrings, which I did. The irrigation involved a spray of water and a bowl to catch water and wax. It was painless.
Since then, my hearing has been in-and-out at times, but never as bad as when I was completely deaf. My ability to lip-read is still functional to this day.