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I allowed my progressive hearing loss to cut my teaching career short when I was in my mid-30s. I loved teaching health and physical education, but felt I was being unfair to my students. I had no access to assistive technology then. I was fortunate to be able to become a stay at home mom as my spouse made enough income for us to get by. That was in mid 70s and early 80s when there was no focus on technology other than hearing aids. I discovered, and became involved in the organization that was to become HLAA in 1983. Along with others, I watched the development of assistive technology, including cochlear implants. People with hearing loss/partial deafness, were suddenly recognized as a unique population that needed support and assistance. We were 'in betweeners'; not deaf and not hearing; a totally separate disability group with different needs. Products that could bring clear sound directly to hearing aids started to develop, and become available. I realized, that with technology that went beyond my hearing aids, I could do many things I had thought impossible. I returned to school for a master's degree in human services/counseling. Without that technology, that further education would not have been possible. It also provided me with an opportunity to educate a lot of classmates and professors about the unique needs of hard of hearing people.

In the early 2000s I returned to work full time, and enjoyed another decade of employment. As luck would have it, I was hired for a part time teaching position in a private school that was losing enrollment. After a year there full time, I was hired by an agency that worked with poverty level wage earners who were seeking education that would raise their income and get them out of poverty. I thoroughly enjoyed both jobs. Had I had the opportunity to get the advanced education earlier, I might have geared my ambitions towards management within an agency. However, this all happened when I was in my late 50s, so I was satisfied being a case manager within. Timing is everything.

You are living in times when technology is available, and is also mandated by the American's with Disabilities Act. Communication access is as valid and important as mobility access. You have to know what is available, and self advocate for its availability. Partial deafness is still grossly misunderstood. People tend to think that all people with hearing loss use and need manual communication. This is not true. The large majority of people with hearing loss need technology. Sadly, too many don't know it exists, and even worse, too many won't use it because it's visible.

If we are ashamed of our hearing loss, we broadcast to others that we are lesser people.We should know better. Learn what is available to you. Know what works for you. Educate about it. Advocate for it. You'll be glad you did. I wish you the best. I encourage you to join HLAA. This very special consumer based organization is a great place to learn what is available. http://www.hearingloss.org Vocational Rehabilitation should also be of help. (If they have a hard of hearing specialist/counselor within the agency. Some don't.

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Replies to "I allowed my progressive hearing loss to cut my teaching career short when I was in..."

I worked with a hearing consultant recently and I think the main take-away for me was that there is technology available, the specifics of which will be relatively unknown until I actually have need for accommodations in a workplace setting. I don't think that embarrassment is the issue for me here, it’s how helpful the technology really is in addressing the problem that’s the issue for me. Does it reduce the communication barrier or does it simply throw up a different one? However, I now know that technology is available, and I have a right to ask for it. I wasn't amenable to this idea for years, unfortunately.

So, I still don't know what works for me yet, but I do know what doesn't work for me: hearing aids. Speech recognition is a challenge with how much these hearing aids manage the sound that’s coming in. I have mostly conductive hearing loss and my cochlear is in pretty good shape. The amount of interference that these hearing aids create is super unhelpful for me.

However, I suspect that I will be asked repeatedly to use them as I continue on my VRS journey. I do resent this; however, if I'm not willing to wear hearing aids then maybe I shouldn’t expect any further help, I don’t know. This would be far from perfect but nothing’s perfect, I guess. Regular headsets have worked like a dream for me with Zoom calls this year so maybe there’s more to pursue there. I’ve learned a lot so far.

Oh, and I was already planning to join HLAA! It’s been on my task list for a while now so I will take this reminder as a motivation to get this done tonight. Thank you!

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