Today I was asked if I consider myself disabled. It’s not the first time I’ve been asked this question. Technically, by WHO’s definition I am. I have an impairment that occasionally limits my participation in life situations.
I am profoundly deaf in my right ear due to conductive hearing loss. This was caused by a benign tumour destroying my ear drum and the bones in my middle ear when I was in my early 30’s. For 7 years I received sound only on my left side. I then had a bone anchored hearing aid (BAHA) fitted. This device sends sound waves directly into my skull via a bone anchored titanium pin. And yes I can Bluetooth my phone to it.
From the day I trialled the hearing aid on a headband I loved it. Since the surgery to remove the tumour, my ear had always felt blocked and my balance was affected. While my hearing aid is on, these symptoms disappear. As a teacher, receiving sound from only 1 side makes it impossible to determine the direction of a sound source which makes picking out the annoying noise maker very difficult. Hearing an individual talk in a noisy room is impossible as all the noise blends into one. This reduces when wearing my hearing aid. Deafness on one side has its advantages though. At night I put my good ear down and do not hear a thing. I did not realise my husband had started snoring until the kids pointed it out. It is also much easier to zone out and have an excuse for it.
Several years ago I taught a student who was born without ears. She had a perfectly formed auditory nerve but no ears, ear canals, ear drums or bones in her middle ear. She has the same hearing aid as me but on both sides. She was actually the first person to ask me if I considered myself disabled. It was the first time I had contemplated that I was. I considered my inability to hear on one side as an inconvenience rather than a disability. Never have I ticked the disabled box on a form. In my mind I am not disabled, and my profoundly deaf student doesn’t think she is either. We both consider ourselves very able. So don’t dis my ability.