“What kind of accent is that?”
“What’s that on your ear?”
“Are you deaf or something?”
“Whoa, you really can’t hear that?”
These are just a couple of the questions that I have been repeatedly asked in my life.
Hi! I’m Lexie. I’m a native of Detroit, Michigan. Retired college soccer player. Current registered nurse. Avid health enthusiast. Joke fanatic. Oh yeah, and I’m hard of hearing/deaf. But that’s not usually part of my introduction. You see, I was born with a severe hearing loss. I grew up wearing hearing aids in each ear. As I got older, my hearing in my right ear started to decline, and I was recommended to get a cochlear implant. It has been 10 years since the surgery, and it is, by far, the best decision I have made for myself. Maybe one day I will get another cochlear implant in my left ear, but for now the little hearing that I have left in my left ear is still holding on.
Some people might be surprised to learn of my hearing. Others might notice it as soon as I speak (I’ve been told my “accent” sounds upstate New York – I’ll take it as a compliment). I’ve lived my entire life with below average hearing so it’s nothing new for me. Waking up to the sound of silence and taking my “ears” out before I go to bed is normal. I don’t know what it’s like to have good hearing. I’ve never had the issue of constantly being woken up by some annoying noise – heck, one time my sister fell off the top of the bunk bed, and I slept like a baby (Sorry, sis!). Being hard of hearing/deaf has made me appreciate other little things in my life that we often take for granted.
Say, for example, talking on the phone. I prefer to speak on speakerphone. I can hear when the phone is up to my ear but not that well. This might not seem like a big deal to you but as a nurse, it presents some challenges.
Let’s talk about this topic for a second – me, being a nurse. Being a new graduate nurse is hard. Being deaf only makes it harder. Yes, I have a lot more hurdles to jump because of my disability. But my hope is that this helps you to understand how much harder I have to work just to do something that you might consider a simple leisure, like talking on the phone.
Thankfully, my kind co-workers help me out a lot. I immediately had to tell them about my hearing so that they did not think I was ignoring them. Sometimes if I don’t hear something after already asking the person to repeat it, I’ll just smile or awkwardly laugh. In a hospital setting, I can’t do that – I need to know and be certain of what was said. I’ve had patients that have absolutely no problem showing me their irritation when I ask them to repeat their question. I’ve had doctors yell at me in the utmost unprofessional way. As a deaf nurse, I’ve learned to be more compassionate and patient towards other because of my disability.
Through it all, one thing I can count on are the gal pals from the USDWNT. These ladies are, hands down, the most incredible group of people I have met. I instantly connected with them after my first camp. These guys just understand my struggles with everyday interactions and the ridiculous amount of times I have to say “what” or “I’m sorry, can you repeat that again?” They all understand the frustration of people dismissing them and saying, “never mind” because you didn’t hear them (PSA: don’t do this).
The parents also have a unique bond because they have all had the same worries, like when they first found out their child was deaf and wondered whether or not their child would fit in with their hearing peers. This team, this family, is my safe haven. A place where I don’t have to feel bad about saying “what” a million of times and where I can take out my hearing devices and be in silence. Pure silence. When was the last time you heard pure silence?
I encourage you to experience the same silence that I do, even if it’s for only a minute. You can’t turn off your hearing like me, but go find a quiet spot. Sit down and relax in your thoughts. It’s a blessing in today’s fast-paced world. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Remember to always be kind to each other and uplift one another. For the person struggling right now: hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call our courage and strength.
Thank you for letting me share my story. I hope you come to love this team as much as I do.