Even though my hearing loss wasn’t diagnosed until I was 27, I remember the difficulty I had hearing as a child. In grade school, I struggled to hear lessons via headphones. When an audiologist tested my hearing, he told my parents I had normal hearing but had trouble paying attention. A second opinion wasn’t sought. I went through school and college convinced that it was lack of focus that made learning in class difficult. So, I overcompensated by staying hyper-focused and a bookworm, graduating at the top of my high school class and with honors in college. I grew up being told that I was book smart but lacking in common sense, that I seemed to be in my own little world, that I had selective hearing. All of these comments, when put in context with an undiagnosed hearing loss, could be misconstrued as a form of bullying. That is why I started Stop Hearing Loss Bullying.
We must work hard to create safe opportunities for students and staff to address bullying. Hold anti-bullying rallies in mainstream schools and schools for the deaf. Nominate peer models to take bullied students under their wing as advocates. Train school staff to look for signs of hearing loss bullying, such as spreading of rumors, name calling, student-imposed isolation, and physical abuse. Take Internet and texting bullying seriously by swiftly and firmly addressing it.
Is bullying for hearing loss limited to just schools?
Unfortunately, no. I’ve learned of educated adults with hearing loss being passed over for work positions and promotions for no justifiable reason. Others have shared with me being denied interpreters, captioning, assistive listening devices, and captioned phones because their employers didn’t think them necessary. But this trend can stop if just one person takes a stand against unfair treatment.
What fuels hearing loss bullying?
In junior high, I remember peers not wanting to be labelled as different. Girls wore similar hairstyles, begged their parents for expensive jeans, and looked down on anyone who didn’t do the same. If a few of us had spoken up that it was okay to look and act a little differently than the status quo, imagine the impact!
As an adult with diagnosed hearing loss, I refuse to be silent about hearing loss bullying. And I encourage everyone to do the same.
I hope my three children, ages 12, 9, and 5, realize that I’m not just typing away at a computer when I blog. I write what I want them to learn: respect for themselves and others.
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Guest contribution by Shanna Groves. Shanna writes about her experiences as a mother of three dealing with hearing loss at her blog Lipreading Mom.