Before, During and After My Disability

Before, During and After My Disability

When it comes to the concept of time, one of the ways that people identify certain periods of their life is by pinpointing an event, and centralizing things around that one event.

There’s the time before the event happened. There’s the time during the event. There’s the time after the event. One common example of this is when people started thinking of periods of time around the COVID-19 pandemic - there’s pre-COVID, during COVID, and, eventually, there will be an after COVID.

Before, during and after. 

Three simple words that surround any event at any point in time. A question that a lot of folks asked me is if I remember the time before I was diagnosed with hearing loss.

I can’t answer that question! I was born with hearing loss. For me, there is no before, during and after my hearing loss. It just simply is.

The way I hear is how I’ve always known it. This can be said for a lot of folks with disabilities that were born that way. They do not have a period of before the disability or after the disability.

The person that is best suited to answer the question of what time was like before hearing loss would be someone that lost their hearing at some point in their life, and got a hearing aid or a cochlear implant as a result of it.

For folks that are not born with disability, but get them later in life - some of them tend to view their lives as the time before the disability, the time when they got the disability and the time after the disability.

I’ve always been curious about how their relationship with their disability compares to someone else’s relationship with the disability that they are born with.

For myself, there is no ‘before my hearing loss’. For example, I will never know what music sounds like to those with normal hearing. If I had to choose a before and after though, it would be the before and after of getting a new cochlear implant. With every new cochlear implant I get, the way I hear things change.

When I was younger, I used to hate these changes, and resented the advances in technology that pushed those changes forward. As I grew older, these advances in technology became empowering for me. The biggest change for me was when I received the cochlear implant I have now. This cochlear has the ability to stream music directly to my processor. The way I heard music transformed. I was able to hear instruments and beats that I didn’t pick up on before. It wasn’t until then that I truly understood why people appreciate music so much.

The thing for me is that, when I had my old cochlear, I still did love to listen to music, and I never resented how others with normal hearing could hear music, because this was all I knew - until a better cochlear came along and shifted my experience. It was because of this huge pivot in the way I heard music that I sometimes think of how I used to hear before the new cochlear, and compare it to how I hear now.

With the inevitable fact that I will need to get a new cochlear every three to four year, I had to accept that my hearing was never going to be constant. For me, with new technology comes a new way of hearing.

Others who have gotten a disability later in life might have to overcome the resentment that their body might not do what it used to before, but accept that there is technology out there that can enable them to do something close to it, whether that is to be mobile, to hear sounds, to breathe easier and more.

Everyone’s journey and relationship with their disability is different - but if there’s one thing I do know for sure, it is a journey of self acceptance, and of resilience - much like everyone else’s own journey in life with whatever they may face.

There can be a lot of resentment or nostalgia when it comes to thinking about the time before a certain event, because it might have been better, or you wished that you realized how good you had it, or whatever the reason may be.

Life is full of the before and the afters. Each before was its own journey leading up to the after, and then that after will soon become its own ‘before’ journey leading to the next after, and the cycle goes on.

As I look back at my life and my own before and afters, I see how it can be tempting to always think of the before. However, I learned that it’s important to learn from the before, and simply start living in the present so you can set yourself up for a better after - whatever that looks like. 

What are some things that you can take away from your ‘befores’, so that you can set up a better after? 

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Love this perspective that any major change in life is reflected on as before, during, and after. Thank you for reminding us all that these are journeys of self-acceptance and resilience. What better way to becoming the best humans possible!

Edlyn Thompson

I was born with mild hearing loss but it’s really mild so that I could still enjoy my life normally. I love music so much and music helps me get through depression during my 20s. Gradually, my hearing becomes worse and worse over time, I read lips to support hearing and things still ok until Covid pandemic, everybody wears masks and I couldn’t read lips anymore. Now, people don’t use masks but covid made me realize that my hearing loss comes to a point that I should find support. During the pandemic, a lot of online meetings were made and using headphone to join them hurt my ears so much that I couldn’t listen to music frequently. I only “reserve” my ears for music when I’m healthy. Music is just like precious gift that I treasure now. I think this is the difference between before and after I really acknowledge about my hearing loss as a serious issue. I’m on my way to accept hearing aids and it takes time. I don’t know what is waiting for me or whether my hearing will lose completely someday, I just keep on moving forward.

Huyen Van

Karina you article before during and after made me realize for the first time my own handicap, of course the lack of smell is by far much easier than the lack of hearing, but I never thought of it before like you mentioned. I don’t know what it is to smell I think I will never do!
Loved reading your article and I am so proud of you and the way you write about it. Love you ❤

camille cotran

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