In recent years, there has been a spotlight on bullies in our schools. But, bullies aren’t a new phenomenon. It’s highlighted now because of social media, extreme news coverage and the internet.
Bullying affects our culture and breeds self-preservation, a need to “fit in” to avoid becoming the victim. What if you don’t have a choice? What if the reason you are bullied is because of those glasses, braces, wheelchair or hearing aids?
I was diagnosed with hearing loss at age 5, due to ear damage that happened as an infant. It’s a degenerative loss, meaning that I lose some hearing, gradually–every year.
When I was in grade-school (in the 80s), hearing aids weren’t as sleek, colorful, or well-understood, therefore, I stood out like a sore thumb. My parents, though they tried so hard, couldn’t afford the best on the market OR the smallest (getting the invisible kind didn’t make sense because as I was growing, so were my ears). The hearing aids that went over my ears (BTE) were very large in comparison to my head! It was hard to miss! Teachers didn’t really understand the extent of my loss, but they did make me sit in the front of class and were very patient. I had wonderful teachers (shout-out to Cunningham Elementary school, circa 80s).
I wasn’t allowed to go outside, at first, most likely because my parents were scared I would lose my hearing aids. Eventually, they allowed me to join my classmates, but I had to remove my aids first. This made it harder to play with others, because I couldn’t hear them. It was very apparent to other kids that I was “different.” My classmates couldn’t really see what was wrong with me, and they didn’t understand why I was different. They only saw that I didn’t listen to them, had a lisp, was very loud, and the teachers treated me differently. A breeding ground for bullies!
My bullies didn’t hit me or steal my lunch money. They isolated me. I didn’t have many friends. I didn’t get the usual birthday party invitations, or sleep-over requests, but I would hear about the fun they had. Of course, I didn’t understand why I wasn’t invited. (Luckily, I DID develop a few friendships and those are still an important part of my life.)
It was so important to me that I was able to do all the same things as the other kids. I didn’t want to be different or be treated differently. I wanted to be on “Safety-Patrol”, play an instrument, sing in the choir, play all the sports. I’m proud to say that I DID all of those things because I worked very hard to be able to! Well, I wasn’t in the choir, because I can’t carry a tune, but I still TRIED.
Looking back, I admire the courage of that little girl. There she was, trying so hard to learn multiplication, hear the teachers, understand the classroom movies, all so she could get good grades and feel normal. She didn’t have a choice, she HAD to wear those hearing aids, or she would fail. She still teaches me lessons every day. If she could get through elementary, junior high and high school with that type of bullying, then I’m not going to let her down now by not owning my hearing loss and working hard every day to overcome the lack of confidence I may sometimes feel.
But, I’m not going to tell you all the details of HOW I was bullied, because the only thing that matters is that I overcame…I succeeded…I won.
The bravery and resilience of children amazes me. They can be ridiculed for an impairment, yet they persist in wearing/using the devices that help them succeed. I am baffled when I see an older person that refuses to get hearing aids because they don’t like how they will look. They are afraid people will treat them differently. The believe the hearing aids will make them look old. That it MAKES them old. This is strictly vanity. As we age, people grow up and out of bullying tendencies and develop empathy. Most people look beyond your impairment and want to help you. You aren’t on the playground anymore. It’s time to #adult.
If you are reading this, and someone you love has hearing problems, it’s okay to talk to them about it. You won’t love them any less because they did something about their loss, you’ll love them more. It will be easier to communicate with them and conversations will be easier. No more yelling over a LOUD TV!
If you think YOU might have a hearing loss, it’s OK! Don’t be afraid. The people you care about are not going to bully you. Everything else, you can handle.
Click here to talk to me about a free hearing test. Don’t waste another moment of your life.