My superpowers began to develop in kindergarten.
These superpowers may not be sanctioned or verified by any authority, but I assure you — to me, they were and still are my superpowers.
Why? Because at the age of 4-years-old, my genetic hearing loss began to affect my life.
Humans are hardwired for connection. Children crave and need connections to their world (parents, family, their environment…everything).
When my ears became affected by faulty auditory pathways to my brain, it triggered “Plan B.”
Plan B: If you cannot understand the spoken words of your parents, sibling, four grandparents, aunts, and uncles…. you self-learn to lipread.
Thus, Superpower #1 = Lipreading.
Luckily I had six adoring adults who loved to talk, talk, talk and read to me. Soon, my lipreading superpower was my best friend.
…Except when it wasn’t.
If the adults in my life turned their head, I could not see their lips. If my teacher spoke to the blackboard, I could not read her lips. If a neighbor spoke without moving his lips, forget it.
Here is the strange thing about hearing loss. When you have faulty hearing, you don’t realize it for a very long time. Your world, as you interact with it, is your “normal.” I had no idea I should be able to understand a conversation when people had their backs to me.
Subconsciously, Superpower #2 kicked in: Reading body language.
This came in handy in junior high! I may not have heard calls from my coach and teammates, but my keen knowledge of the sport gave me the edge. I could anticipate, based on foot placement and how someone leaned, what they might do next. Looking back, that was my advantage.
But that’s for a later discussion…. back to early childhood.
As an elementary student, it was difficult to lipread children as they ran and played in unpredictable, moving patterns. So many times I felt out of place – unable to follow the conversation of the lively group. I gravitated to one-on-one interactions. Listening became my best quality as a friend.
This may be the beginning of my discomfort in big parties, big groups and big events where I was unable to lipread three talkers at the same time. I could hear better is quiet spaces.
Why am I sharing my personal story with you?
To raise awareness in those most likely to notice a child with a hearing problem:
Hearing loss is an invisible disability that affects millions of babies, children, teens and college students.
The signs of hearing loss are hard to notice.
I know, because I was never diagnosed during my childhood.
My superpowers enabled me to live in the “hearing world” without the adults catching on. Children are adaptable. (That’s good and bad).
Some of the signs of childhood hearing loss:
- Sits close to the TV (yes, that was me)
- Guessing the wrong answer to your question since they did not hear it (yes, that was me)
- Seems aloof and/or very shy (again, me… terrified in noisy group parties)
- Focused intently on your face while learning to lipread (my childhood photos show this)
- Instinctively sits closest to the teacher (on front row) or the parent (at the dinner table)
- Wants car radio turned up louder (although “volume” is not always the solution)
Each child copes differently. Each child’s hearing situation is unique. Please understand that even “mild” hearing loss is a serious issue.
Can you see how this might impact their education?
Side note: There are around 48 million Americans (babies, children, adults, and seniors) with some degree of hearing loss. This is a serious health epidemic that remains a mystery to most. If you believe a child may have trouble hearing, please see an audiologist for a quick hearing test. The test is easy and inexpensive.
A child’s future may depend on it.
I know. Because I lived decades with an undiagnosed genetic hearing loss until age 52.
Yes, I was first diagnosed in November 2013 with Bilateral Reverse-Slope Hearing Loss. And it is an uncommon type: Reverse Slope Loss.
But my superpowers have served me well during my adult career. I learned early on to stay fully engaged in conversations and interactions. This helped me forge wonderful personal and career relationships.
My hope is that children receive everything they need to maintain a connection to their world – a world full of amazing sounds.
This is why I share my story with you.
Children with hearing loss have much to contribute to our world. Let’s make sure we give them every opportunity to show us their beautiful personalities and to share their unique talents with the world.