[OPINION] What it's like to live with hearing loss

“I choose not to place 'dis' in my ability.”
– Robert M. Hensel

We never wanted to be disabled, be it physically, mentally, emotionally or sensorally. Nobody wants to be that way, but it happens. 

I have had hearing loss (moderately severe sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear, and severe sensorineural hearing loss in my right ear) since I was 10 years old. I had dengue back then and the nerves in my ears were severely damaged. Still, it was a good thing I survived that outbreak, even if it left me with hearing loss. (READ: Sunflower farm in Quezon plants seeds of hope for PWDs)

Wherever we go, communication is always present, so discrimination follows. Even though I wear a hearing aid sometimes, some people still think I’m dumb, and call me “deaf” even though I’m not deaf. I am “hard of hearing." I can still hear, but I have difficulty catching up with words. Being deaf is different, because if you are deaf, you hardly hear sounds at all. This is why sign language is the major means of communication for the deaf, but for the hard of hearing, it's more of verbal communication and sometimes a bit of sign language.

Before you judge or label someone as deaf, observe how they communicate, and this way you can better differentiate. And either way, just because we may not be able to hear well or at all doesn’t mean we are dumb or stupid. (READ: Man born with no hands finds his 'hidden ability' in miniatures)

Since communication is the daily struggle of someone who's hard of hearing, we don’t usually watch videos without captions. As for the use of phones, we hardly answer any calls, though we could as long as you speak clearly. When someone is talking to us, we would rather see their lips moving and have them face right in front of us so we can hear and understand words. Lip reading is the best way we can understand better; sign language is optional. In my case, I don’t know sign language because I studied in public schools until university. I am more of a visual person. (READ: Online jobs eyed as perfect opportunities for PWDs)

Because I am a person with a disability (PWD), I can take priority lanes like the ones in supermarkets, restaurants, government establishments, and others. However, many people mistake me for a regular customer because I look "normal." They keep saying “for seniors or PWDs only," and it's only when I show them my PWD ID that they fall quiet. (READ: Giving up not an option for persons with disabilities in Western Visayas)

Hard of hearing people are sensitive to emotions, and there are times when we also get tired of listening. We don’t like the feeling of discrimination. We don’t want to be laughed at just because we misheard a conversation. You give us respect, and respect will be earned. We need your full cooperation so we can do better.

Those living with lifetime impairments are truly brave. As depressing as it is sometimes, we try to be happy and mingle with other people, joining support groups, communicating with strangers, and living with positivity. It’s a hard battle, but it will be surpassed with the help of family and friends. – Rappler.com

Nepsy Ucag is a licensed pharmacist living with hearing loss and a member of Hard of Hearing Group Philippines.