If people make a big deal of your hearing aids, you may feel too conscious to wear them, isolating you from social situations. Maybe a fear of classmates laughing at you for not understanding your teacher makes you less willing to ask for help. Perhaps you’re not sure whether your friends are ribbing you or just being total... well, you get the gist.
There’s no reason to work this all out on your own. Bullying in any form, even if it’s from your friends or a teacher, should never be ignored. It can lead to physical and mental health issues, affect how well you do at school and create a range of problems that carry on well into adulthood.
Don’t go it alone
The hardest thing to do when you’re being bullied is reach out to others. You might think that this is just the way things are. You might worry that things will get worse if you tell someone, that people will think you can’t take a joke or that your teacher or parent won’t understand.
But you don’t have to put up with it. Your school has policies about bullying, so approach a trusted teacher or ask your parents to raise it with the school. If you can, document details of any incidents including dates, and ask for updates on any action the school takes. It can be hard when you’re a teenager dealing with an authority figure, but if you’re not satisfied with the response of someone you talk to, you may have to keep approaching other people until you find someone that gets it. If you feel as if there’s no one in your life you can confide in, you can always talk with services such as Kids Helpline for support.
Understanding the motivation
This is not some touchy-feely "love your enemy" nonsense. It’s about taking the time to understand where the hurtful comments are coming from. Maybe you are the first person with hearing loss they’ve met so they’re curious or uncertain about what’s okay. Perhaps they don’t understand your condition and what it means. Or they could be someone who will pick on anyone for any reason and yours happens to be a hearing loss.
Depending on which of these it is, you (or someone you trust) might be able to talk to the person and explain why their comments are hurtful, or that there’s a reason you need to do certain things differently in the playground. Obviously, if you feel that it’s not safe for you to address the bully directly, you should speak to a teacher or your parents.
Building a thick skin is easier said than done, but not remaining passive in the face of bullying is important. Not only will it make the bully’s actions less effective but it will improve your overall confidence and attitude towards your hearing loss.
- Get some allies - Let the people most important to you know what’s going on. This can be difficult and you may choose to do it gradually. Keeping people in the know means they can give you the help you need. This can include providing you with some perspective by reminding you of your overall awesomeness. They may have a fresh perspective on how to handle a particular problem. They can also speak up on your behalf about hurtful comments when they know you don’t like it. Someone is also less likely to make a nasty comment or mean joke if they know there’s a bunch of people who have your back and will think that they’re lame.
- Starting the conversation - It isn’t your job to educate others on hearing loss and sometimes you can only get asked “what’s that on your ears” so many times a day. But in some situations, talking about your condition breaks down barriers and helps people better understand hearing loss. You don’t have to do this with the person bullying you, but if others around you feel uncomfortable or that the subject is to taboo, they may end up being a passive bystander. By demonstrating that it’s just one aspect of your life, bullies become less confident in their actions. Establishing an open culture and dialogue about hearing loss means it can’t be used against you.
- Being confident - Confidence is like a muscle that gets stronger when you stretch it. Slowly building up your confidence means your wellbeing is healthy and that bullying becomes less effective. You’re more likely to come forward if bullying gets out of hand and are more open to others in your life. Focus on your strengths, have firm boundaries about what is and isn’t acceptable, be open to seeking new friendships in your life, join clubs and do things that make you feel like your best self.