Is Hearing Loss A Disability?

Meandering Through A Hearing World

Is Hearing Loss A Disability?

What happens if you have or develop a hearing loss? Are you suddenly considered disabled simply because you can’t hear? I never considered myself disabled. I can function. In spite of my hearing loss, I go about my life and work, take care of my family, volunteer and socialize. Navigating through the hearing world isn’t without irritation or constraint. Making telephone calls is difficult. I don’t always hear my appliances. I cannot hear my doorbell. Dealing with noise always sets me back. Listening to soft spoken souls is a task I’d rather not undertake. Still, I manage. I refuse to let my hearing loss define my life.

There is another side to the conversation. Most insurers and the Social Security Administration considers those with a severe or profound hearing loss to be disabled. When I was younger, I could have applied for monthly social security benefits. I chose not to because I decided it was better to work. I was raised on the idea that if you don’t work, you don’t eat. I felt it necessary to take responsibility for my hearing loss and my needs.

I planned well. After purchasing my first pair of hearing aids, my audiologist at the time told me to insure them. He explained that my aids would need updating and that when new technology came available, I would want to upgrade. I opened a savings account and every month saved what I could for hearing expenses. Along the way, I had a few employers with group insurance plans that allowed me to open a medical savings account. From time to time, I had insurance that covered some of the costs of my aids. It wasn’t easy to set money aside. I would have preferred taking a vacation, buying new clothes, new furniture, or eating out more. There were times when I felt sorry for myself. Left out. Why is my life so difficult? Still my friends called me amazing. You always get by, they would say. Trust me, I would retort. There are days that I believe will never end.

When the American with Disabilities Act came along, I cheered. Suddenly there was captioning on television and later in movie theatres. Work places, hotels, and other public facilities had to comply, by providing technology to those of us with hearing loss. There is currently a movement to provide more hearing loops in public buildings. There are advocacy groups who want to see more insurances and Medicare cover hearing aids and other hearing devices. I hope they are successful. I realize not everyone has the means to save for or purchase hearing equipment.

Where does that leave folks suffering from hearing loss? Should we throw up our hands and decide we are among the disabled in this country? Do we say we have special needs? I don’t have answers. I tell people I have a hearing problem, I explain my needs. I socialize so as not to find myself isolated and slipping into depression. I keep up with technology, with research, trying to understand what I might do to help myself. I try to make the best of my situation by keeping a positive attitude.

I believe most would say that suffering from hearing loss or any disability is a personal matter. How we handle ourselves, our lives, and all we need to do to get by depends on one’s feelings. Ultimately the person suffering from hearing loss is the one meandering through the hearing world. We all have to be the navigators of our lives, defining who we are in the hearing world.