Being a kid is challenging and awesome at the same time. But, it’s even more challenging when you’re hard of hearing.
Here are some habits to help make you more effective as a hard of hearing kid.
1) Strive to create lasting relationships
What does this mean? Does it mean seeking out just anyone who will befriend us? Does it mean having to accommodate everyone that we meet, so we can have a relationship?
Truth is, this first and singular habit is for us to strive to be our authentic self. If we’re not true to ourselves, no one else is going to see you for as you are. Be who you are. Don’t worry about those that think you’re not ‘worthy’ to be their friend. Those that become your friends actually want to be your friends – and chances are, they’ll be more likely to stick around than those who don’t really know you. This rule applies to everyone, but as hard of hearing people, it can be easy to get trapped in the thought that “oh, but I’m so different from everyone else! Who will ever like me?“
Being hard of hearing is part of our identity. Embrace it. Sure, it’s harder to hear or even catch on to jokes. The bottom line remains: if we’re not comfortable with our ‘HOH’ status, we are less likely to speak up and become more isolated than we need to be. Get comfortable! You’re in this for the long haul whether you like it or not.
Develop a friendship within yourself first, then go out and seek those lasting friendships. As an adult, I wish someone had told this to my 10 year old self, when I was worried that I’d go through life completely alone. Be kind to yourself. You have the longest relationship to deal with.
2) Be gentle, but firm
Advocacy is an ongoing activity that we all have to do as hard of hearing kids. Usually if you’re under the age of 15, (as in my case), my parents did most of the advocacy for me. They spoke to my teachers. They made sure I had everything set up in a way that would benefit me the most. Parents are our first advocates, and we should model our own personal advocacy after their example.
Then there came a point where I had to do it myself. I was assigned a science partner by one of my teachers in the first week of school. Grade 10 science, I think. That person wasn’t willing to help me in the way I needed (ie: wouldn’t face me, etc). It was not a mutually beneficial relationship either.
After school, I went up to my teacher and asked if there was anything that could be done. Being gentle and diplomatic did me a world of good rather than to be aggressive about my needs. At the same time, I was also firm that I wanted to do well in the class and wanted to see what solutions she had to offer.
Turns out, I ended up staying with that person for the entire science term. The reason why? My teacher spoke to my partner and explained some things that I had already explained. (Exhausting, I know). That science term was one of the most eye opening classes as it was then that I learned that if one way doesn’t work, look for alternative solutions – WITHOUT getting all frazzled/upset/aggressive.
The more diplomatic you are in situations like these, the more others are willing to help you.
3) Go outside your hearing comfort zone
Too often we get ‘comfortable’ with our life as is. We’re not pushing ourselves enough (I did say these were habits of HIGHLY effective Hard of Hearing Kids). For example, when was the last time you decided to listen to something without seeing the other person’s lips/captioning? Try it. You’d be surprised how much our brain can pick up if we only pay attention to it.
Odds are, one day you’re going to hear your child going “Mommy/Daddy come wipe my bum!” from a far-away bathroom. You’ll be thanking me later for these little ‘out of hearing comfort zone’ tips.
Other tips include:
- Call up your mom or dad (or a cousin) to ask them a quick question.
- Sit in a room and listen to one song (start with sheet lyrics, then get rid of them later)
- Fiddle with your t-coil and settings. Now’s the time to experiment!
- Sit outside and listen to the sounds of nature. I especially love the sounds of the ocean.
4) Constantly get outside of your personal comfort zone
This is similar to Habit #3. But rather than focusing on your hearing health, focus on challenging yourself. Is there a passion that you’d like to pursue one day? Ask yourself, what skill do you need to have to accomplish that passion? Then, go out and find opportunities to obtain that skill.
I know of someone who has a hearing loss and became a lawyer, and is now a public speaker/comedian. When I asked him years ago as a 12 year old how he felt whenever he had to present a case in a courtroom (as public speaking is scary for most people!!!) – he told me: “lots and lots of practice”. I am certain it was an uncomfortable situation for him at first, but as a passion he made it happen. Today, that guy is Stephen O’Keefe and he is one of my mentors.
Last year, Stephen did a great TedX talk on how to listen better. He is a great example of how we, as persons with a hearing loss can overcome uncomfortable situations and be a shining light in a time where it is so easy to get ‘comfortable’.
5) First try it yourself, then seek help
You’d be amazed what you can accomplish if you push yourself to try to complete something yourself. If the challenge seems too daunting, don’t be afraid to ask someone for help – your parents, your teachers, your friends.
There is a rule that I have for myself that has inspired me to be more proactive with my abilities. It’s the 5-second rule by Mel Robbins. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1. Do it. Don’t even think. Just do what you have to do.
On the flip side: It’s also OK to fail.
Failure should be looked as a learning opportunity. I’ve heard the story of Walt Disney so many times – he tried SEVERAL times to get Disneyland up and running. Today, it’s a successful empire.
Google Behind every success, there is failure and check out some similar quotes!
6) Don’t think about what you don’t have
Yeah. We’ve heard it over and over again.
Oh, I’m so sorry – you have a hearing loss.
You need to wear (insert hearing assistive device name)? How awkward!
I can’t understand you. You need to speak better.
This goes back to the 1st habit mentioned: Strive to create lasting relationships. Remember your friendship within yourself. Don’t let these comments make you feel sorry or worse about yourself. Whatever it may be. Yeah, I get it. You might only have 10% hearing, or less. Think about it – what CAN you do with that 10% hearing? Arguably, there might be some things that are more challenging for you to do than others – like talking on the phone or becoming an air traffic controller.
Despite that, you can do SO much. Many don’t realize it, but our potential is unlimited.
This reminds me of a story of a young boy who injured himself with a BB Gun. That injury left him with one eye permanently damaged. He used to be an all-star baseball player, and now with his vision changed, his game skills were sub-par. With this new situation, he had to ‘readjust’ what he could do – and instead of baseball, he decided to become a professional climber.
Adjust your perspectives. Make what you have remaining work. It’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do have. Think about inspirational hard of hearing people you know. Check out the Young Adult Spotlight series. Check out:
- Heather Whitestone McCallum (Miss America)
- Johan Hammarström (Hard of Hearing Pilot)
- Derrick Coleman (NFL player)
- Kris Martin (Racer)
- Mandy Harvey (Singer)
7) A Personal Mission Statement
Admittedly, I stole this idea from Sean Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (another read I highly recommend for all teenagers – get it from Amazon). The premise is to give yourself some kind of written statement that keeps you focused. It keeps you on track, even when things go wrong in our lives. It can be long. It can be short. It can even be a list of things we want to accomplish. How you want to put it together is totally up to you. I put my personal mission statement together when I was 15 years old. A couple of years before I got my cochlear implant. This is what it probably looked like (I can’t find the actual written piece, but have a good idea of what it entailed):
My personal mission is to be happy, to be able to go to places without mom and dad always on my tail, and to be able to drive.
That statement probably changed every year or so, but the point is: it kept me going. Regardless of me having a hearing loss. I would focus on my statement each week and it would give me the drive to succeed – even if people told me I couldn’t do it.
I love this quote from the book:
A personal mission statement is like a tree with deep roots. It’s stable anywhere, but it’s also alive and continually growing.