Matthew Weighs In with Hard of Hearing Perspective

By Matthew Martin

Ed. Note:  Martin is a 21 year old  graduate student at the New York University’s Stern  School of Business and currently lives  in New York City.  He was born with a 50 dB bilateral hearing  loss due to a non-functioning thyroid.

I was just surfing the internet for self-discovery when I happened upon  the Hands & Voices site.  I first read  the “Social Bluffing” article and learned there was an actual term for what I’d  been doing so much all my life, ha ha. I’ve gotten very good at social bluffing  by focusing on the tone of voice, length of sentence, relative volume, and  facial expression.  (See  www.handsandvoices.org/articles/SocEmot/V9-4_bluff.htm)

A funny story you might hear from many is the difficulty my mother had  in proving that I had actually had a hearing problem. While testing in various  audiology booths, I would always look through the little window and read the  audiologist’s lips. That worked until I went to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia,  where they covered their mouths during testing. I was four or five at the time  they finally identified my hearing loss.

I can say that I’ve re-invented myself from a clumsy kid with wires  coming out of a box strapped to my chest (1st grade) to someone who you might  be surprised has a hearing problem (by the way, I did away with the trainer,  and today I only use the hearing aids).   My biggest challenges, however, have been my social relationships and my  relationship to myself.

As I’d been looking  within myself, I realized most of my progress had, unfortunately, been driven  by self-loathing, self-criticism, and shame. From middle school and sometimes  even now, I’d try not to wear my hearing aids. The big reasons being that 1)  other people could see them and I thought it affected their behavior towards  me; 2) hearing aids reminded me of what I am—they were compact symbols of my  inadequacies (looking so awkward), so I always tried to hide them from view.

Sometimes if I was  wearing them in a social circumstance, I’d still have to say “what?” multiple  times. I felt pangs of self-loathing right then in the group conversation. I  was viewing myself through my interpretation of “their eyes” and what I thought  they perceived. It’s pretty complicated, but that’s how I felt.

Another article on  the H&V website that caught my eye was the Seaver/Schick interview on  “Cognition in the Classroom.”  It explores the  effect of hearing deficiency on a student’s social-emotional progress because  of isolation—this is HUGE. I’m still making progress, but I still haven’t had a  romantic relationship or even a short-term fling (even though many  opportunities were there) because interpreting responses and discerning  widely-variable signals is still a weak point for me.

Anyways, I just  thought I’d chime in on insights to some of my experiences.

Thank you for existing,  Hands & Voices.  ~