“Blindness separates us from things but deafness separates us from people.”
The quote above?
Truer words never spoken.
I have done twenty posts on my blog, most of it has been all about Mental Health Awareness and the stigmas attached to it. The one thing I have not quite done yet was speak about the one thing that has affected my own mental health my entire life.
My hearing loss.
I was born this way, you see. So I don’t know any different. To me, it’s not a disability, but yet, if you really think about it, it’s a huge disability in many ways. But yet, I still didn’t treat it as such, and growing up, I lived a “normal” life as a child with broken ears, not unlike another child with a broken arm, or a broken leg.
I never used it as a crutch, nor did I use it as a fry pan and beat people over the heads with it. I didn”t hold a sign up saying “HI! I’m DEAF, please take pity on me!” nor did I try to influence events or people by using my disability as an excuse.
If I did, it was unintentional, because that’s not who I am or what I do.
But let’s face facts. It’s a very real disability and not very well understood by the majority of the population.
And why should it be? You can’t very well tell by looking at a person’s ears that a person suffers from a hearing loss disorder, can you?
Point in fact : I had a co-worker of mine once asked me why I have a hearing loss because my ears were big.
It doesn’t stop there either.
“Can you drive if you can’t hear?”
“HELLO! HOW. ARE. YOU. DOING?!”, as a person opens their mouth so wide the Grand Canyon can fit inside. “CAN. YOU. UNDERSTAND. ME?”
It’s a comedy of epic proportions when people don’t understand what it means to not being able to hear.
But it doesn’t fix the fact that having hearing loss or permanent deafness can be both physically and mentally disabling, as well as emotionally.
As I have mentioned, growing up, I lived a fairly normal childhood with wild and crazy friends like Matt, Jeremie, and Travis, and Tommy. They all took me at face value. I wasn’t the kid with a hearing loss; I was their buddy, Joey, who played baseball with them, and Capture the Flag, and football in the backyard; video games and computers and Dungeons and Dragons too!
Then I became an adult. And I entered the real world. And let me tell you, the real world can be a right bitch. Words like ignorance, stupidity, discrimination, all the words I knew meanings to, but never understood fully. Then I became an adult, and those same words I knew first hand, and with tons of experience.
The stories I can tell you about my life with a hearing loss can fill a book. Which is a plan, one of these days.
But what has not been said often is the fact that a disability such as Deafness can and will lead to mental health issues.
Humans are sociable creatures. Take that away, and humans become anti-social. Angry. Fearful. Depressed. Disoriented. Anxious.
All the things that may or may not describe many a person with hearing loss. It becomes problematic because you have two very distinct worlds; the world of those who can hear, and the world of those who cannot hear. And right smack in the middle of both worlds are those who have a little hearing, torn between two existing worlds.
The root of the problem at hand is the misunderstanding, and the miscommunication between both, if not all three, worlds. Those who can hear do not know how to communicate properly to those who cannot hear. It’s not their fault, they have not been educated enough to properly speak to someone with sign language.
And those who cannot hear cannot speak with those who can because they relied far too much on sign language, a language that is not known by a majority of the population.
Distrust, lack of communication, misunderstandings, all of these things and more becomes the norm in today’s society.
It needs to stop.
Let me give you a few facts about Deafness and hearing loss.
- Globally, 1.5 billion people live with some degrees of hearing loss out of which around 430 million people require rehabilitation services for their hearing loss.
- By 2050 nearly 2.5 billion people are projected to have some degree of hearing loss and at least 700 will require hearing rehabilitation.
- Hearing loss may result from genetic causes, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, exposure to loud sounds, use of ototoxic medicines, and ageing.
- In children, almost 60% of hearing loss is due to causes such as ear infections and birth complications that can be prevented through public health measures.
- Over 1 billion young adults are at risk of permanent, avoidable hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices.
- Unaddressed hearing loss is expensive to communities worldwide and costs governments US$ 980 billion annually. Interventions to prevent, identify and address hearing loss are cost-effective and can bring great benefit to individuals.
- Of those who could benefit with the use of a hearing aid, only 17% actually use one. The gap is consistently high in all parts of the world, ranging from 77% to 83% across WHO regions, and from 74% to 90% across income levels.
- Over 5% of the world’s population – or 430 million people – require rehabilitation to address their ‘disabling’ hearing loss (432 million adults and 34 million children). It is estimated that by 2050 over 700 million people – or one in every ten people – will have disabling hearing loss.
If that doesn’t surprise or scare you, then I don’t know what would. It just goes to show that there are so many people out there who are suffering from a disability that we understand very little about, that we take for granted, and those 1.5 billion people who suffer from some degrees of hearing loss are suffering from depression, anxiety and more.
Because we are cut off from other people. We live in our own little worlds.
Just…TRY to understand how they might be feeling.
How WE are feeling.
We are HUMAN. Just like YOU.