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My Life With... Hearing Loss

Not being able to hear well can be a challenge in a noisy world—but it has some silver linings too. Here’s what Azalea, 11, wants you to know about her condition, and how you can be a friend to other teens with impaired hearing.

Imagine you’re sitting in class trying to listen to your teacher, but everything is so LOUD. Chairs screech. Two kids whisper and laugh. Vroom . . .A truck rumbles by the window. You strain to hear your teacher, but it’s impossible over all that noise.

My name is Azalea, and that’s what being in class can be like for me. No, I don’t have super hearing. In fact, it’s just the opposite: I actually have hearing loss in both ears.

Hearing impairments like mine are not that common: Only about 3 out of every 1,000 children in the United States are born with impaired hearing. On the other hand, about 15 percent of American adults have trouble hearing. Genetics, some illnesses, prolonged exposure to loud noise, and even brief exposure to extremely loud noise can all cause hearing impairments.

Living with hearing loss can be tough, but it’s also taught me to advocate for myself. Curious what life is like for me? Read on!

In My Own Bubble

When I was little, I stared into space a lot. My mom said it seemed like I was in my own bubble. When I started talking, I sounded different from other kids.

When I was 3, my mom took me to an audiologist, an expert in hearing loss. She diagnosed me with hearing loss in both ears. I’m not totally deaf, but I miss some sounds that are high-pitched, like the notes of a flute. Other sounds—those that are low-pitched, like the rumble of trucks—can seem way too loud.

To manage my hearing loss, the audiologist gave me hearing aids. When I left the office, I stopped under a tree and got a big smile on my face. It was the first time I had ever heard birds chirping!

Azalea loves doing  puzzles, playing piano, and baking.

Hearing Everything

Hearing aids work by amplifying the sounds coming into my ears. I love my hearing aids because they help me catch things I might miss otherwise. The problem is, they don’t just pick up the sounds I want to hear, like the teacher’s voice. They also amplify other sounds too, like traffic noise or kids talking.

A few years ago, I created a presentation to help other kids understand hearing loss. (See “Azalea’s Hot Tips.”) My number one tip? Don’t shout! Yelling makes it harder for people with hearing loss to understand you, because it changes the natural rhythm of your speech.

Extra Help at School

I always sit at the front of the class in school, and I read my teacher’s lips. I taught myself lipreading, which helps me understand what people are saying.

My teachers also wear a special microphone that transmits their voices straight into my hearing aids, kind of like a walkie-talkie or a phone. The funny thing is, they sometimes forget to turn off the microphone after class, so I have to remind them I can hear their private conversations!

Last year I did remote school because of Covid-19. I know some kids don’t like remote learning, but it was great for me, because I could always hear the teacher clearly. On the other hand, masks make it impossible for me to read people’s lips, so that’s been a big challenge for me during the pandemic.

Relaxing Time

Because I have to work superhard to hear all day, I really need my relaxing time at home. I love to bake, play piano, and watch TV. (I can hear the piano and TV with my hearing aids, and I use closed captions when I watch movies or YouTube videos.) I also do a lot of puzzles. My biggest one so far was 3,000 pieces.

Sometimes I turn off my hearing aids if something is too loud or I’m home and don’t need them. I love the feeling of air in my ears and the sense of quiet.

What I Want You To Know

I want other kids to know I am exactly like them, I just need one little extra thing to help me—kind of like having glasses. I find that kids accept glasses way more than hearing aids. Maybe it’s because hearing aids are rarer than glasses, so kids aren’t as used to seeing them, but they’re really very similar.

If you get to know me, you’ll discover I’m a great friend. I can really tune in and focus, and my friends and family say I’m a great listener—probably at least partly because of my hearing loss.

If you see someone with hearing aids, don’t be afraid to go up and talk to them. You’ll quickly find out that they’re really no different from you.

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