Today, I was shopping at Best Buy, I was talking with a sales girl about purchasing a Flip camera, and I was asking her all kind of questions. Finally, she asked me a question, “what do you speak about?” She was gesturing toward my ears. Well, that opened the door for me and Iproceeded to share with her my cochlear implant story, my speaking engagements, and we also conversed about deaf culture and overcoming adversities. Ashley (sales associate) was actively listening to me as I shared and shared. At the close of the conversation, I told her I was glad I shared with her and in turn, she learned something new today— she learned about cochlear implants. Finally, she admitted to me, she didn’t know how to approach me with the cochlear implants. As we all know, many people react in so many different ways when approached with their disabilites. I have to admit, there were many times in my life, when I wanted to inquire to others about their physical disablities, but I hesitated and I didn’t, because I did not know how they would respond to my question. I have no intention of offending anyone, I just want to learn more; however, I do realize everyone is different and the last thing I want to do is upset anyone.
Therefore, I was glad Ashley asked me, I am assuming we had a friendly rapport, thus the conversation flowed. It was a big moment in my life, why, you may ask, as you all know I am still a newbie about sharing and being open with my hearing loss. I was like most people who are hard of hearing, I was in denial most of my life, I didn’t want to appear different in front of others, so I often hid my hearing aids and cochlear implants behind my hair. Yes, I shared my story growing up and as an adult when I felt comfortable with the person and the situation.
The big difference is this was the first time ever in my life, I had this conversation with a complete stranger and you know what, I felt really good about it. I realized it was advocacy on a small scale; However small, I felt like I did something really big.
As I mentioned earlier, I hid my hearing aids and CI’s behind my hair. I prefer to wear my hair short and finally last week I got brave and got a short haircut. It was not the shortness that was being brave, it was my ears showing!!! Big moment for me. Yes, my haircut partly covers my CI’s, but it is alot more pronounced than ever. I was scared and a little self-conscious at first of my ears showing, however, I ventured to work and out in public and people still treated me the same. Actually, not the same after today, I realized now I may be conversing with more strangers about hearing loss and you know what, I am perfectly okay with it now. It is a small step in increasing awareness.
In addition, I work for Academy Sports and Outdoors as an Assistant Store Manager, and now I proudly wear my Cochlear lanyard around my neck with my Academy name badge and I had my first conversation with an Academy customer wearing a cochlear implant because he noticed my CI’s with my new short hair. It was a very unusual feeling. Wow, twice in one week, with complete strangers.
As Ashley, quickly said, toward the end of our conversation, “you are more comfortable with your CI’s and sharing, thus, now you don’t mind having your ears show more.” I couldn’t agree more and that just about sums it up.
“Share, you are only doing the world good!”
As Always, Have a sunny day. Susanna