By Zeid Malas
How many times have you nodded your head in response to someone whose words you couldn't really hear, no matter how many times they repeated themselves?
How many times have you felt complete isolation when you were among a group of people, whether it was hanging out with friends or a family dinner? Not because you were using your phone or social media, but because you couldn't really keep up with the countless conversations happening at once.
How many times did you do your best to avoid the phone, preferring to text because you were afraid you wouldn't hear the person calling or that you would miss important information being said? Do you know of the pain felt when someone you care about wants to talk to you through Skype, but you just can’t follow the conversation?
What about YouTube, music, lectures, and videos? Such as when you fail to understand what's being said because you can’t hear it and no captions are provided.
How many times have you hesitated or been afraid to ask someone to repeat himself because you felt bad for the times he needed you to listen and understand him? Or maybe because it would change how people thought of you?
I mean every word when I say "I feel you."
When I was 9 years old I woke up one morning only to realize that I had lost 99% of my hearing in both ears for no reason. It wasn't hereditary, it wasn't physiological—it just happened. What did I do? There wasn't really anything I could do... I just accepted it. I taught myself to read lips and body language in order to understand what someone would be trying to say. It was my primary way of communication and with it I was able to finish high school and reach college.
Sadly, my weakest point is electronic devices such as speakers, the TV, the phone… etc. I can hardly make any sense of what comes out of them which makes it very painful not being able to hear and understand someone when they call me. Especially when I'm an online gamer and my games sometimes require me to Skype with my group to coordinate our strategy, about which I end up being clueless.
I've dealt with hearing loss for 10 years now, until last May when I had surgery on my right ear to get a cochlear implant. I made a documentary showing my last days with hearing loss, the surgery, and finally my first moments/days after.
Even though this has been a challenge and complication in life, it made me different from the rest of my peers. It made me someone you remember, someone who my professors will mark as present without the need to shout my name, someone patient and full of empathy, someone who continually works hard to provide the best results because that’s the only way I know how to live.
I know many think I've been suffering because of this, and that's what I thought for a while, too. Until I realized that—weirdly enough—it's actually a blessing that I lost my hearing, for it's what made me so different from most people my age. I'm not saying I'm better, I'm just saying I don't waste time relating music to my life, making sure everyone knows what I’ve had for breakfast each day, asking everyone to share and like my profile picture on Facebook, using countless hashtags on Instagram to get followers, retweeting every celebrity tweet on Twitter, or building a story every day on Snapchat.
Because of my situation, I've learned to observe, learn, and understand solely using bodily cues, and to adapt to any difficult situation or people I may encounter. I do my best to make the best out of any situation. I'm not saying I'm Sherlock Holmes... I'm simply saying I'm Zeid Malas!
I made my disability my greatest ability... What are you going to do with yours?