“Where are you from? You sound like you have a European accent?”
“Oh! Yeah, um, actually no it’s not a European accent. It’s actually an accent I have because I have hearing loss, I guess. I was born without hearing, actually mild hearing but then I sorta lost it when I grew up and yeah…anyways, it’s not a European accent.”
I don’t know about you, but I just cringed reading that. That was a conversation that actually happened, and I was the one that delivered the cringe worthy response.
My high school was full of kids that I grew up with in elementary school, and everyone more or less knew of each other.
I never had to explain my hearing loss because people just knew.
When I started university, I went from being in a grade of just under 500 people in high school to more than 4000 people in my first year at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM).
Most of those 4000 people have never met me before, or knew anything about who I was. It was really refreshing, but sometimes it was awkward, especially when I ended up having conversations like the one above.
My deaf accent was pointed out by a lot of people that I just met. They were just genuinely curious about who I was and about my story, just as I was about them!
I just didn’t know how to explain my hearing loss to other people. I never really had to do that before university. My first year was spent learning how to best explain my hearing loss without making it sound too complicated.
At first, my explanations were too drawn out. I was trying to make light of something that didn’t really need to be made light of and I kept over complicating something that was in fact really simple.
By the end of my first year, whenever someone pointed out my deaf accent or whenever I had to bring up my hearing loss for the first time, I knew what to say, and how to say it.
“That’s my deaf accent! I have hearing loss.”
I took my drawn out explanation and simplified it. Most people accept that information and move on, while others are a bit more curious and ask questions! I don’t mind either approach.
Looking back, I assumed that when people found out about my hearing loss, that they would make some sort of judgment about me.
Thinking that someone was already judging me before knowing me caused me to panic and fumble over my explanation. I now realized that I was the one that made it awkward. If anyone made a judgment over anything, it would have been with how uncomfortable I was with myself at that time,
My piece of advice is, when you tell someone about your hearing loss, the best way to approach it is to be simple, straightforward and honest.