“Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.”
~John Dickinson, in the Liberty Song~
With a huff, I tapped out the last word to my recent post on Facebook and leaned back in my chair, clearly irritated. Within 24 hours, I had more than 50 likes/loves/cares, and tons of comments about my recent rant. I clearly hadn’t expected such a turnout such as this, and it made me realize something. Something important.
There is hope. A light at the end of the tunnel, amidst all the chaos and turmoil of our world. It was a startling revelation, and I realized then that there was truth to the saying, “safety in numbers”.
Incidentally, my friend, Depression, wasn’t in his usual corner; and Anxiety seems to have quieted down a bit. Maybe I might make a new friend, and his name would be Hope? We shall see.
In any case, the topic in question? Read it for yourself.
Bitchfest. I almost never talk about this because quite frankly people wouldn’t understand unless you have the same problem as I do. I’m 47. I’m HoH but legally deaf. I’ve been this way since birth. When I was 10, my dad introduced me to the world of computers, and the world wide internet.
I was hooked. I had a safe place. Everything was text, or just about. I never learned sign language because I wanted to be “normal” …meaning, where I live, no one knows sign language. At the time anyway. I did very well for myself without using SL, and my speech is good for the most part.
I loved the internet because I could be me. I could exercise my writing and my creativity. I could have fun and game with others. I joined a social media platform called Second Life and made friends around the world.
But technology got better. People started using microphones. People got lazy and started voicing more and more. This year…. has been horrible because of covid and face masks. People flocked to the internet admist the quarantines and the number of people has tripled when it came to voicing. Suddenly my safe place was no longer safe, and that’s when I realized that I had to make some changes.
I feel that the deaf community is vastly misunderstood. Especially people who are hard of hearing. They are in both worlds, yet they are not. When I look at say the happenings of this year with BLM and all that, I just think to myself, it’s not just you. It’s people like us who suffer long term consequences because our “issue” may not be because of skin color, or because of sexual identity, but of a condition that is not easily seen or understood.
I needed to do this because today has been especially trying. Our mental health suffers as a consequence of rapidly advancing technology and the way society has become…a machine, incapable of feeling. Of emotions. Of empathy.
It’s a constant struggle, day in, day out, not because I have a disability, but because others refuse to treat me as a person who just needs a little bit of understanding, a smidge of empathy, and a whole lotta love.
End rant.Joe Valente, 9/10/2020
After I had posted that excerpt on a Facebook group for the Deaf Community, the outpouring of sympathy, agreement, and support just about flummoxed me. Never in a million years did I expect such a turnout, and ironically, it all began with a simple rant about my online experiences. This experience? It sure was an eye opener!
While my blog is about mental health awareness, I do and will touch upon my very own “disability”, as I do believe the two go hand in hand together. Much of my own anxiety stems from the fact that I do get frustrated in daily encounters of the human kind because of miscommunication issues, and 95% of my own depression stems from the fact that I do have a hearing loss, and that it changed me, for better or worse.
For the better.
I believe that my own disability has given me a healthy outlook on life. A better understanding of people in general; maybe not so much as kindness, but a more empathic feeling for those who suffer just as much as I do, if not more. While I may sometimes rage at the world, it’s not because I have a disability; no, it’s because people are ignorant, and have their own disability, the disability of ignorance.
While I journey into the Deaf Community, seeking to find acceptance and understanding, I hope to use that knowledge I gained here to help those who need to find their own niche in society. Whether it’s your anxiety or your depression; or a similar disability or a physical disability such as blindness, I do now know that there’s something out there. For everyone.
With that being said, I advocate the need for a Mental Health Community. I’m quite sure there already is one, or two, or even a few dozen; it may just take time to find the right one for your own needs. The more people who understand our own daily struggles, the more people who accept us for who we are, and take us in with an arm around our shoulder, the better we will feel.
There is, after all, Safety in Numbers. Find your people. Find your community. Find your support. You won’t regret it.
Key facts about Deafness and hearing loss as of March 1st, 2020…
- Around 466 million people worldwide have disabling hearing loss, and 34 million of these are children.
- It is estimated that by 2050 over 900 million people will have disabling hearing loss.
- Hearing loss may result from genetic causes, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, exposure to excessive noise, and ageing.
- 60% of childhood hearing loss is due to preventable causes.
- 1.1 billion young people (aged between 12–35 years) are at risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise in recreational settings.
- Unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of US$ 750 billion. Interventions to prevent, identify and address hearing loss are cost-effective and can bring great benefit to individuals.
- People with hearing loss benefit from early identification; use of hearing aids, cochlear implants and other assistive devices; captioning and sign language; and other forms of educational and social support.
- Current estimates suggest an 83% gap in hearing aid need and use, i.e., only 17% of those who could benefit from use of a hearing aid actually use one.
The impact of hearing loss?
- Functional Impact –
One of the main impacts of hearing loss is on the individual’s ability to communicate with others. Spoken language development is often delayed in children with unaddressed hearing loss.
Unaddressed hearing loss and ear diseases such as otitis media can have a significantly adverse effect on the academic performance of children. They often have increased rates of grade failure and greater need for education assistance. Access to suitable accommodations is important for optimal learning experiences but are not always available.
- Social and Emotional Impact – Exclusion from communication can have a significant impact on everyday life, causing feelings of loneliness, isolation, and frustration, particularly among older people with hearing loss.
- Economic Impact –
WHO estimates that unaddressed hearing loss poses an annual global cost of US$ 750 billion. This includes health sector costs (excluding the cost of hearing devices), costs of educational support, loss of productivity, and societal costs.
In developing countries, children with hearing loss and deafness rarely receive any schooling. Adults with hearing loss also have a much higher unemployment rate. Among those who are employed, a higher percentage of people with hearing loss are in the lower grades of employment compared with the general workforce.
Improving access to education and vocational rehabilitation services, and raising awareness especially among employers about the needs of people with hearing loss, will decrease unemployment rates for people with hearing loss.
For me, the social and emotional impact of having a hearing loss is huge. Please take care of yourself.