Human Story: Hard of hearing, not a barrier to living in my indestructible bubble of happiness
Meet Brihtnney Amponsah who happens to be one of my closest friends . I have and will continue to admire her for her tenacious, calm and genuine spirit. At age four ,she was diagnosed with severe sensorineural hearing loss. However, she only realized she was one in a million to hit this diagnosis in grade 2 or 3. This has not in anyway hindered Brit in smashing her goals.
So we are kicking off this year with an interview with Briht . Enjoy.
What does it mean to be hard of hearing?
Hard of hearing is defined as someone who is not able to hear as well as someone who has a normal hearing. In my case, I am not able to hear my surroundings or voices without the use of my hearing aids. Without my hearing aids, I can naturally hear loud sounds such as an alarm clock ringing off, feel the vibrations of loud music playing or hear the water rushing out of the faucet in the bathtub.
How did you find out you were HOH?
When I was four, I was watching a cartoon movie in the living room of my old home when my mom was in the kitchen cooking. I was sitting so close to the TV, and staring at the TV. My mom called my name out loud from the kitchen, and I didn’t respond. She came to stand behind me and called my name, and I still didn’t reply. That’s when she started to have a hint that there may be something “wrong” with me. She took me to my family doctor, and the doctor referred me to an audiologist for a hearing test. After my first hearing test, I was diagnosed with a moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss. It was then recommended that I wear bilateral hearing aids.
With the process of being diagnosed as a four year old kid, I never really understood that I was a “one in a million” that had this diagnosis until I hit grade 2 or grade 3. I found out myself that I was a hard of hearing when my classmates started asking me questions such as “What are those in your ears?”. I started to see that I was different from them when I learned that they didn’t have hearing aids in their ears like me.
Did that impact the way you grew up?
I am very grateful to say that I grew up with more than enough support from my family, friends, old classmates, audiologist, and a hearing aid resource teacher. I was like any other child who just wanted to play and have fun.
Did you ever feel different growing up?
Being the one and only HOH in my whole family from both sides of my parents’ family tree, I always felt different growing up. It was the littlest things that reminded me I’m different, and it still does to this day. For example, my whole family can understand and speak my mother tongue, but I cannot due to the fact that I missed the first four years of my life to hear the language, speak the language, and learn the language. Another example would be me taking a pause before I jump into the pool with friends, reminding myself to take my hearing aids out and storing them in a safe place before swimming. No matter what, I will always feel different as a HOH individual in a hearing world.
Did you feel the need to fit in or stand out?
Nope. Thanks to my parents who instilled the confidence in me to be whoever I was meant to be. And giving me that opportunity to learn about myself and embrace who I am as a hard of hearing individual.
Did your teachers feel the need to pay special attention to you during high school and college?
Usually on the first week of every class, my teachers or professors are aware of my hearing loss and what needs I will require from them to aid in my learning. I actually have a list of things that I would need from a teacher/lecturer on paper, and my coordinator of my school will send out my email to all of my teachers/professors. I then meet with each and every one of them (by appointment) to see if they have any questions or concerns. They pay special attention to me when they put a video on in class – making sure that the video has closed captioning on. Other than that, they make me feel no different from their other students.
Do you think this has influenced your personality?
I wouldn’t say my hearing loss has influenced my personality, but it does influence the way I like to socialize in certain environments. Whenever someone invites me to a concert, a restaurant with loud background music or a party, I take a moment to think and visualize myself in that possible environment and start asking myself questions like: do I want to be there and take the extra focus to understand what some people are saying when they’re talking to me? (I’m a lip reader, so even if someone is screaming in my ear at a concert or party with loud blasting music I won’t catch what they said unless I read their lips or they text me through a phone.) I wouldn’t say that I hate being in loud environments but it is just takes more time for me to understand what someone is saying. My personality is separate from my identity as a hard of hearing individual. Because my hearing loss cannot determine if I have a quirky personality, or if I am a quiet or shy person and etcetera.
I see that you have a page on Instagram, tell me a little more about that?
Correct, I have a separate Instagram page called @DearHearingPeople. At first, I wanted to be anonymous and discreet about it, but I came to a conclusion that I should be made public because this is my experience as a hard of hearing individual as a daughter, as a friend, as a nursing student, as a co-worker, and as myself. The trigger or the inspiration for starting this page came from the lifelong and repetitive questions about my hearing loss that I kept on getting from people I have met from school, work, church, and even my extended family members, and strangers. I also felt that some people, that I know, may have wanted to ask me these questions but probably felt that the questions would somehow offend me. So I felt the need to build a platform where I could easily answer these questions and just refer my IG page to people who would ask the same question in the future. I don’t care about the number of followers I may have, I just wanted to get my voice out there having the possible idea that my experience may help somebody else who is HOH like me.
Throughout the year, @DearHearingPeople turned out to be more than that. I’ve had people who are HOH relate to some of my experiences, and it made me feel pleased and great because I don’t know anybody who is HOH in real life to have that connection. I’ve had parents asking me what the best possible solution would be for their HOH child in a situation that I may have gone through in the past. I’ve had hearing people or HOH individuals direct message me some personal questions in areas where I can help. And finally I’ve helped an HOH individual get out of a deep depression in relation to her to just being a hard of hearing individual.
What advice would you give to kids pursuing an education?
If you are a HOH and a kid, understand that this world may give you the idea that you are not able to accomplish your goals based on your hearing ability to become someone you desire to be. You can accomplish anything that you put your mind to. However, I won’t lie to you but you will always have to work harder than your classmates, and you will persevere and succeed. You may have some challenges to face as a HOH, but best believe you will make it.
How has this influenced your career path (What is your career path)?
Many people who have normal hearing do not have to think about the fact that they have to choose a profession that is safe for their hearing or if the profession they choose has to be relied heavily on their hearing (cops, soldiers for example to be able to hear gunshots and etcetera). Apart from the usual reasons for picking a good and passionate profession, I was thinking about how it would impact my hearing. I always knew that I wanted to work in a health care field, no problem. But when it came to the point of choosing to become a registered nurse, I was worried about the whole stethoscope situation – will there be a way for me to hear a person’s heartbeat with a stethoscope? When the time came to learn how to use a stethoscope, I worked closely with my audiologist to find a suitable & specialized stethoscope (for my hearing aids) that would give me the ability to hear one’s heartbeat, lungs, and stomach sounds. It took me a lot more practice than the normal hearing students with their own stethoscope to learn, but I persevered and succeeded.
I hope you all enjoyed this blog post. Please do not forget to subscribe, comment and like.