Daring to be open about a hidden disability is a huge challenge.
Published on June 16, 2013 by Katherine Bouton in What I Hear
Dare to be yourself has a particular resonance for those of us with a hidden disability.
Mine happens to be hearing loss, but other hidden disabilities include depression or anxiety, phobias, epilepsy, HIV/AIDS, PTSD. You name it. And someone is reluctant to admit it.
I hear from readers of my book ("Shouting Won't Help") day after day about their reluctance to acknowledge hearing loss. They describe the familiar but desperately uncomfortable situations when they can't hear in a group or a noisy place, or a meeting, or a dinner party. Even with their hearing aids.
And then there are the days when they go out to collect the neewspaper or walk the dog, and there out of nowhere is a former colleague. That happened to me shortly after I left The New York Times, where I had worked 22 years. I was proud of my reputation at the Times, and had never admitted to hearing loss. The stress of living a falehood was excrutiating. I had denied my hearing loss right to the end, and I paid the price for it.
One morning, sbout four months after I left the Times and when I was still struggling to comprehend what had happened to me, I took my new puppy out at the ungodly hour of six or so, no hearing aids, a sweatshirt pulled over my nightgown, and jeans. But most important, no hearing aids. Who should come out of the building across the street but a bright ambitious man I'd once interviewed for a job. He got the job, and went on to success. And now here we were, three years later, me in my nightie, sweathshirt and jeans -- and deaf! What did he he say that day? I haven't the faintest idea.
Most hearing aids are invisible and most hearing aid users (except you lucky ones with tremendously secure egos) are reluctant to make an issue of it, especially if you're young. It leads to agonizing situations. One day, again with my dog, in the park, I ran into an old friend, now an emiment biologist. I would love to have talked to her about her work, or at least her dog --- a Portuguese water dog, about the age of my Maxwell. But it was impossible.
What a way to live. Don't do it!