“Happy Birthday!” Screams of campers wishing me well pierced the woods. Yet, somehow, they failed to reach my ears. “Kayla. They’re talking to you,” a friend would gently tell me. “Oh! What’d they say?” By the time their greetings had been relayed to me though, it was too late, and my thanks were met instead with a cold smile, or an even colder shoulder. “She’s so stuck up.” Ouch. I heard that one.
What those I don’t know well aren’t aware of is that I can’t hear well. My hearing is not completely lost, but there is a dramatic difference in what I hear, compared to what most others can hear. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I learned monthly trips to the ear doctor were not something everyone did. Simple things, such as alarm clocks, and bird chirps escape me. I’ve learned how to compensate with reading lips, but when I don’t realize someone is talking to me, I can’t pay attention.
Though I have not yet decided if a hearing aid is right for me, the most important thing I learned is that I’m no weaker than anyone else. Figuring out ways to hear, and overcoming obstacles that I face day to day has challenged me, and made me realize my full capacity. I’ve realized that I can be a strong leader, because I have had to speak up for myself all my life, and I now know how to lead others. I volunteer to help others, because I have some understanding of what it is like to feel as if no one could possibly understand how different they feel. Being able to help people takes the focus off myself, and makes me realize just how lucky I am. At least I can take comfort in knowing that at the end of the day I will still be me, even if I missed a few words in the conversation. No matter what I hear, and what I don’t, I’m still a strong, capable, and hard-working person. Really, that’s all that matters.