By Meghan Bayer
August 12th, 1996, I came screaming into the world. I had all my fingers and toes and my parents could not have been more proud of their “perfect” baby girl. I was (and still am) blessed by having two very loving parents, and just over two years after my parents had me, they gave me the extraordinary gift of being a big sister.
As I went through my toddler years, I hit all my developmental milestones. Around the age of three and a half, my parents started noticing that I was always turning my right ear to the person speaking. Something wasn’t right. I was not reacting to sounds the way the typical hearing child should. My parents took me to my pediatrician who referred us to an audiologist. On September 28th, 2000, at the age of four, I was diagnosed with bilateral moderate-severe sensorineural hearing loss and immediately fitted with hearing aids. My dad and brother also have congenital hearing loss and wear hearing aids.
When I was first diagnosed, my parents’ worlds’ were shattered. My dad continued to be in denial and all my mom could do was hold me and cry. I think they felt I would somehow be limited in by abilities. As a way to recover and accept the diagnosis, we started taking family sign language classes which we all enjoyed.
My whole education, I have been mainstreamed in a private school. I had a very typical childhood; my mom drove me to soccer, dance, gymnastics… you name a sport and I have probably at least tried it. My days were filled with homework, playing outside, and evening swimming lessons. I was a well-behaved student that had earned the respect of all of the teachers, faculty, and staff. I maintained straight-A’s and regularly made the honor roll. At school, I had a hearing support teacher come in for a half hour twice a week during school hours to troubleshoot my equipment, review math skills, and occasionally play fun games.
In 5th grade, my family moved two hours away for my parents’ jobs. I didn’t know anyone and I was very shy. If someone asked me about “those things on my ears” I would stare at the floor silently.
Everything was different. I had a locker now, a bunch of teachers that didn’t fully understand my needs, and a new hearing support teacher. I lived in a new city and making friends seemed like an impossible task. I had to deal with my first real bully who would he call me names and physically abuse me. When I defended myself from getting hit by a hockey stick, I got detention.
Through the years, my hearing became progressively worse until I was profoundly deaf in my left ear and so I was implanted with bilateral cochlear implants during the summer of 2010. With intense therapy, I successfully learned to hear. I was constantly amazed at my new hearing world. With the increased ability to hear, my academic success improved dramatically and my confidence soared. I received my second implant just days before starting my freshman year of high school.
In order to fulfill my school’s foreign language requirement, they offered to let me take ASL. I politely declined and stated that I would be taking French. I was at or near the top of my class all four years of French. My sophomore year, I was given the French II Award for the highest academic average in my class. This goes to show that if you work hard, anything can happen!
Hanging out with friends, homework, community service and year-round basketball ruled my life. I was inducted into the National Honor Society, served as the president of the school’s service club, and enjoyed helping out with school events. By my senior year, I had over 800 service hours and I was awarded my high school’s highest honor for my scholarship, character, and service. I graduated with highest honors, a varsity basketball letterman, and as a member of the National Honor Society.
Today, I can confidently tell you that hearing loss will never be an excuse for me or any of my family members. My present goal is to earn my degree in Communication Rhetoric, minor in the Administration of Justice, and obtain a certificate in National Preparedness and Emergency Management. It sounds like a lot, but I’ll get it done because there are no excuses! While I am by no means fluent, I do attend our ASL club on campus and continue taking classes.
Looking back on the journey, I am thankful that my speech was completely unaffected by my severe inability to hear during the prelingual period. I am grateful to my parents and I would not be where I am today without the help of each and every single person on my journey.
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