Have you ever wondered what other people think about you? Or what their first impression of you was? Or how their perspective of you changed over time from when you first met?
I had those questions myself, so I decided what better way to get the answers than to ask somebody that knows me well?
Let me introduce you to Vanessa.
Vanessa and I met in September 2012, in our first year of university. She became one of the most important people in my life. It constantly amazes me every day how we both grew and evolved from the first day we met, and still remained as close friends as ever.
Honestly? If you ever find me looking at my phone and smiling, I’m texting her. Even my mom knows that at this point. Every time she catches me giggling at my phone, she goes, “What’s Vanessa up to?”
I decided to do a little interview with Vanessa and ask her all the questions about what it’s like to be friends with someone that has hearing loss and if it ever impacted our friendship.
So, let’s dive right in!
K: What was your first impression of me?
V: My first impression of you is that I thought you were absolutely pretty! Your energy attracted me to sit next to you in our first year English Literature tutorial. After we got to chatting, I realized that my loud personality may have come across as very…enthusiastic to meet you as you looked a little confused as to why I was so happy at 10 in the morning, but overall it was great meeting and connecting with you.
After chatting more, we realized that we went to the same elementary school at different times and had mutual friends. I did notice that you had a deaf accent, but I didn’t know that’s what it was, I just figured you may have had a different way of speaking or a speech impairment that I didn’t find necessary to question.
K: Did you know anyone with hearing loss before me?
V: Not anyone I can remember in particular. I’ve seen older folks with hearing aids and I know that when my great grandmother was with us, we had to speak loudly as she was hard of hearing, but I cannot recall coming across someone with hearing loss before you.
K: How did I tell you about my hearing loss?
V: We never actively brought it up in conversation. In our first few weeks of getting to know each other, through interactions with others and just amongst ourselves, I noticed that I’d have to repeat myself in certain situations – like if I wasn’t facing you while talking, or if I tried whispering in your ear or something.
I just started cluing in to these cues and adapted without questioning it haha. I remember a few months into our friendship, we were sitting in the library and you were telling me stories from your high school events, and you danced around the topic of your cochlear implant.
It’s funny because when I invited you to my house for the first time, my mom met you when I was doing your hair and you had your cochlear off – and my mom said hi to you and when you didn’t respond, she was so confused! It never occurred to me to inform my parents beforehand that you had a cochlear implant, I just thought of you as my friend Karina from the very beginning!
K: When I did tell you, what was the first question that popped in your head?
V: When we first acknowledged your cochlear, I believe my first question I thought of internally was, ‘I wonder what I sound like to her?’.
Haha, I know that comes off as completely conceited but I was curious to know! I do recall my first thought was, ``Wow, she is so confident and comfortable to talk about this with me, so I am very honored!”
I think that even years into our friendship, I still ask you questions about it. I believe it was a year or two ago, I inquired about how you wake up in the morning, as in do you use an alarm or does someone wake you up?
K: Do you think my having hearing loss impacted our relationship in any way?
V: I don’t believe so at all. Our friendship would have been the same whether you do or don’t have hearing loss. It has affected the way we interact in groups because sometimes, someone may say a comment or direct a question at you and if you don’t hear it, I never want to leave you hanging, so I gently nudge you or repeat the question!
I think if you didn’t have hearing loss, I would probably pick up the phone and call you more, but since a month ago, we started to video call so that works the same! I think it’s also beneficial that for some reason I watch movies with subtitles even if you’re not with me!
I did always wonder if your hearing loss had any sort of relation to your clumsiness, maybe then I wouldn’t have to pick you up every time you trip 😉 Just teasing haha.
Author’s Note: …she’s not kidding. I fall a lot. One time, we decided to take a Muay Thai class together and I completely wiped out. Like my cochlear flew across the room. She had to help me off the floor. It’s a miracle we stayed friends after that. Kidding, kidding. I stopped taking Muay Thai though.
K: Did you have any assumption about hearing loss that I either proved, disproved or both?
V: I always assumed, like with anything that is deemed as different or not normal, that your situation is ‘sad’ or unfortunate. But I realized that, just like anything that is different, your hearing loss may require accommodations but that doesn’t make you less fortunate. It’s just a different lifestyle. You proved resilience to me.
K: We’ve gone on several vacations together and basically lived together for a week at a time. What's one thing you noticed in regards to my hearing loss?
V: I noticed that for the first hour or so of the day you don’t even put your cochlear in, so I know not to talk to you hahaha.
Author’s Note: I can attest to this. I don’t want to talk in the morning haha.
K: What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to us because of my hearing loss?
V: There are too many funny memories regarding your hearing loss, one of them being the time that I definitely caught you lying about hearing something I said when you in fact didn’t haha
Author’s Note: This happens way more often that I’d care to admit, and she knows when I do it EVERY SINGLE TIME.
K: Do you think my having hearing loss would have changed the core nature of our friendship in any way?
V: Absolutely not. The core aspects of our relationship which are based on our values of loyalty, trust, communication etc. would’ve been the same. I also believe that your values as a person would still be the same whether you had hearing loss or not because your parents raised you wonderfully!
Author’s Note: Damn straight. This was a test question. She passed.
K: If there is one thing you would advise other people that are friends with someone that has hearing loss, what would it be?
V: I would advise others who are friends with someone who has hearing loss to just treat them like a human, the same way you would with anyone else. Ask questions if you have any, and ensure you have their attention and look at them when speaking!
K: Add anything else you think would be worth talking about/reading?
V: I always feel a sense of pride with all the work you do with blogging and writing. When you were writing stories for your Professional Writing courses in university, I remember you were asking me what topics you should talk about in your upcoming stories. I remember suggesting that you talk about your cochlear implant because that’s one thing that really makes you stand out from other writers.
So, I’m glad that our conversation had a small impact on the amazing work you are doing today!
Author’s Note: I teared up a little here. It’s fine. But she’s right, she made an impact on the work that I did. In fact, she was featured in the last chapter of my book.
Well, there you have it! One person’s perspective of being friends with someone with hearing loss. Thank you Vanessa for letting me interrogate – I mean interview – you.