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Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Hearing?

It’s tough when you believe you’re invincible and then BAM! you get deathly ill out of no where.

I was ten years old and thought nothing bad could ever happen to me. I was an active and social child. At the time I got sick, I was involved with martial arts, working my way to a yellow belt. In fact, I was in class the day it all started.

It was July of 1999 and I was practicing  for an upcoming test to get my next stripe (for those who don’t know, you receive x-amount of stripes on your belt before you move on to the  next color belt). I was in the ring with a few of my peers and our teacher when I suddenly got extremely overheated (quite quickly) and dizzy. My mom took me outside where it was slightly cooler until I felt okay enough to return back inside.

The next day I started experiencing headcold symptoms and was even told by my doctor that it was nothing more than just that. But it kept getting worse. On top of that I was experiencing excruciating migraines (I have suffered from them since I was 4 years old but this was the worse they had ever been). This went on for less than a week. Class was Wednesday night and by that Sunday, I woke up early screaming, not knowing who I was, my family was or where I was.

The next thing I remember, I was laying in a hospital bed staring up at a bunch of doctors who were staring down at me.

The illness I had? Encephalitis. This virus attacked my brain and when it was done running its course, I was left legally blind and legally deaf.

Now, I know the title of this blog post is titled Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or  Hearing and that’s because the blind part of me is pretty straightforward. I just tell people I have problems seeing and it is usually left at that. Being Deaf is a bit more complicated. The Deaf world and culture is an amazing thing to be a part of and I am so grateful to have been given the chance to appreciate life through a different view. But because I can hear (only to a certain point) and “speak well”, it is difficult explaining to others, and because of that, I myself have trouble figuring out where I belong.

I used to tell people I was Deaf but then I’d get the confusing looks and questions: “But you can hear?” and “But you speak really well.”, because you know you can’t be considered Deaf and be able to hear or speak well. Then I started declaring myself Hard of Hearing and found that this was much easier to explain when the question came up as to why I have hearing loss. But truth be told, I don’t feel like I fit in any of the three categories. I don’t feel like I fit in with Deafies because I’m not savvy when it comes to sign language or the Deaf culture. I don’t feel like I belong with hearing people because I can’t hear half of what they say and I don’t feel as if they truly get me and my situation. And as for Hard of Hearing, I feel as if I’m just kind of like, “Hey, I’m here…”. 

We all want a place where we belong and maybe one day I’ll figure out where mine is.