I have been deaf as long as I can remember. Being able to hear almost normally has been a major blessing in my life.
I have been deaf as long as I can remember. Being able to hear almost normally has been a major blessing in my life.

I Can Hear You Now

My personal journey with getting a hearing aid.

Huh? What? I’m sorry, can you repeat that? This was about 70% of my daily vocabulary for nearly 18 years of my life. Most of the time, these phrases were followed by a smile and nod while hoping whatever was said to me wasn’t super important. For as long as I can remember, my left ear could never process sound.

As a young kid, I would frequently get in trouble for not listening to my parents. I never quite understood why I was being punished, because I don’t even remember doing anything wrong. It wasn’t until kindergarten that I discovered my disorder. It was a normal day like any other. I worked on how to spell out the names of different colors, I played with my friends at recess and went about my normal six year old activities. During gym class, they had everyone line up and take turns going to the nurse’s office. When it was my turn, she had me stand behind a blue strip of tape on the floor, cover one eye and read tiny letters off of a poster. I passed with flying colors. Afterwards, I had to sit on a bench and put on silly looking headphones. The nurse asked me to raise my hand every time I heard a beep. I confidently raised my hand every time the shrill noise passed through my right ear. I did very well, and we moved on to the left ear. “Now, do the same thing again, but you will hear it in your left ear,” the nurse instructed. I sat quietly and waited for the beeping to begin. A couple seconds pass and nothing. After a little longer of a wait, and the nurse develops a puzzled look on her face. “Sweetie, why aren’t you raising your hand? You did great last time.” I explained to her that I didn’t think she had started the test. She takes the headphones from me and listens for herself. She gives them back and asks me to try one last time. I was frustrated with myself and listened extra carefully, but I still couldn’t hear a thing. She walks behind a curtain and starts to make a phone call. I pick up every word. “Good morning Mrs. Rodriquez. I am currently doing a basic screening on Miss Kaylee, and she is not responding to any of the sound in her left ear. Is there any chance you forgot to indicate on her medical records that she is partially deaf?” Within twenty minutes, my mother picked me up from school. I remember being excited because I got to eat McDonalds for lunch instead of cafeteria food. I also remember how confused my mother was.

We visited a specialist just a few days later. They put me through the same test, and they yielded the same results: no response from my left ear. We discovered that my cochlear recieves the signal, but the signal is never sent to the brain. I could have gotten a cochlear implant, but money was tight and my right ear still worked just fine. Hearing aids were not an option at the time, because they weren’t designed for my condition. From then on out, I would simply have to adjust to only using my right ear.

I continued seeing the specialist once a year to track my progress and make sure nothing was getting worse. My results were practically the same every single time, so I did not return after 4th grade. Since kindergarten, I started sitting at the front of the class, asking my friends to sit on my right side so I could hear them better and taught myself to start listening closer.

While this impairment never negatively affected my school work, I remained self conscious about having to ask people to repeat themselves, reminding my father who has a low voice to speak up and being left out of conversations with friends entirely, because I couldn’t understand what was going on. It did have a few perks, however. If I wanted to sleep in a noisy environment, I could just lay on my good ear and block out the rest of the world. It was also an excuse to listen to music as loud as I wanted. For a while, I used it to get out of chores by telling my mom that I just didn’t hear her tell me to do them, but she eventually caught on to that one.

In the fall of 2017, I felt as if I was losing hearing in my right ear. I would hear a faint ringing noise every so often and was having more trouble than normal with my hearing. We visited the specialist once again to make sure that I wasn’t at risk of going completely deaf. Everything checked out alright. My right ear was only ringing, because I was in the school marching band and didn’t use any ear protection. However, that appointment changed everything. Hearing aid technology had advanced over the seven or so years that I hadn’t been to the specialist. There were now hearing aids that would be compatible with my disorder. At the time, we didn’t have the money for them as the newer technology was pretty pricey. My mom promised me that I would be able to get them before I graduated high school.

Here we are in 2019 just a few short months from graduation when my mom announces that she had talked to my dad and they set up a consolation with the audiologist. I was ecstatic. After all of these years, I would be able to hear like everyone else. I counted down the days until my appointment. When I arrived, they had to test my hearing once again to correctly match and calibrate a hearing aid for me. I was able to test them out, and I nearly cried. I could hear papers rustling. I could hear the copy machine from across the hall despite the door being closed. I didn’t have to completely turn around to listen to my mother who was sitting on my left side. I had no idea how much I had missed out on. But alas, the waiting had to continue for they had to order my own personal hearing aid. About a week and a half later I woke up extra early on my day off from school to go pick it up. I was so anxious that I didn’t care how early my appointment was. I tested them out once I got there, and they were perfect. I could finally almost hear normally. As the doctor described it, I would never be able to hear completely normal. It’s the same concept as a prosthetic arm. You have the same uses as a normal arm would, but, of course, it would never truly function the same. However, this does not bother me. I am simply thankful that I am able to hear as much as I can now.

I am writing this exactly a month from the day I got my hearing aid. It baffles me that such a small device has already had a huge impact on my life. I feel much more confident. I do not find myself being as frustrated now that I don’t have to constantly ask people to repeat themselves. Although it had been a positive experience so far, there have been bumps in the road of the learning and adapting process. I find myself needing to adjust the volume based on my environment. In the first couple of days, I have had ridiculous headaches. Any sudden, loud noises startle me easier and hurt my ears quite a bit. In busy, loud environments, I find myself getting overwhelmed. I know most of this will get easier with time, though. Ironically enough, I have even changed my career plans to become an audiologist myself. I think it will feel great to be able to help people in the same way audiologists have helped me. All in all, this entire experience has certainly changed my life, and yes, I can hear you now.

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  • K

    Kathy RodriquezApr 10, 2019 at 1:56 pm

    This is so awesome Kaylee Rodriquez!! We are so proud of you, & the struggle that you have dealt with & are continuing to overcome! May God bless you in all that you do!