Updated: Oct 2, 2020
Over the course of my life, I have had a very complex relationships with hearing aids.
To start with, I'd like to explain what hearing aids are..
Hearing aids can all be described as small, wearable electronic devices which enable a person to hear sounds better and understand speech more clearly, providing an overall improvement in communication ability. (Source: Hearing Link)
When I was much younger in grade school, due to my hearing loss (which was not widely understood at the time in Nigeria) my teachers thought i had ADHD (Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder) and basically gave up on trying to teach me anything. I was in Grade 2 at this time.
My mum took me to meet the principal of Greensprings Lagos - Dr Ogunbawo (a super- amazing woman) to get insight on how she could manage my ADHD. She had a conversation with me (I don't remember the conversation, but I remember going for that initial visit, I was about seven years old) She realised I did NOT in fact have ADHD, but needed to be put in a position where I could actually hear my teachers (i.e sitting in front of the class, to hear what was being taught)
Guess who thought initially thought she could sit at the back of the class with the cool kids and could get away without having to hear anything in Grade 1 and 2.
This lovely lady realised what was happening and asked my Mum to bring me over to her school. I basically had to cram three years of missed grade school into a year, INCLUDING re-learning how to write, with my right hand. Up until then, I had written with my left hand. (It's considered a taboo in Nigeria to be a left-handed person)
Everything up until grade three was rendered invalid, I literally had to re-learn everything again in two years (which would have been my grade three year). In grade three and four, I would go for some classes in the main classrooms with the other kids and the other half of my time was spent in the "Special class" (A class for special needs students) It was a very curious time of my life and I remember there were seven of us.
In grade five I finally joined the cool kids in the "normal class". Boy, was I proud. In all essence, I really only had one year of "normal" grade school experience (I skipped grade six) where I learnt anything at the pace I was supposed to. Unfortunately it was in this same school that I was mercilessly bullied.
Due to my hearing loss, which in turn affected the quality of my speech, I was bullied. Quite badly. In addition, I wore hearing aids which were the behind the ear type which back then were NOT discreet at all. This basically made me a target. Due to this, I started to refuse to wear them as I thought I would be fine without it. My parents tried to intervene the first few times I told them. Eventually I stopped telling them about it. It was only my immediate younger sister who knew about it, because we were in the same school then.
This I think, influenced my parent's decision to send me to an all-girls secondary school. They were hoping to mitigate the bullying I was dealing with, especially from the boys (who obviously didn't know the impact of what they were doing)
Side bar: Interestingly, One of those young boys who bullied me, is now one of my friends turned family now.We reconnected over MSN when I moved to England and remained friends ever since. He grew up to be an amazing, quite lovely and incredibly smart young man and is one of my main guy friends today He was there through some pretty tough periods in my mid-twenties. Guess who introduced him to his wife.
As an adult, this helped me realise that kids don't understand the gravity of things they do sometimes and their personalities at a very young age are not necessarily an accurate indicator of how they would turn out when they're much older.
Back to the story, when I started secondary school, I came ready to fight anyone who would DARE try to bully me and ready to fight back at the slightest provocation. I was NOT about to let anyone take me for a weakling, so I was a fighter...ohh boy i fought over the silliest things honestly. Think about torn uniforms and all of that stuff, yeah that was me (Sorry Mum and Dad!)
So in all of this, I was maintaining a status quo of a babe not to be messed with. Wearing hearing aids absolutely did not fit with that look, so I would take them to school and NEVER wear them. My Mum used to beg me, try to convince me, she did everything she could, but I just wasn't having it at that time. In my head, she just couldn't understand.
It wasn't up until, I think the penultimate year of secondary school, that I got introduced to CIC (Completely in the canal hearing aids) which were supposed to be "invisible" at first glance. Because they were not visible and I did not have to be conscious about them, I started to wear them.
See below picture and hopefully it explains a bit
In hindsight I honestly do not know how I did not repeat a class or fail secondary school because for the most part, I wasn't wearing my hearing aids.
Life became slightly easier, as I could hear some things I had initially been missing. However, I still didn't wear them full-time because I was being stubborn.
It wasn't until I moved to England for school and I had my communication challenges, which you can read about here That I realised I needed to use everything at my disposal to succeed. Desperate measures eh?
But still, I was not fully comfortable with my hearing aids. Sometimes I wore them, sometimes I didn't. If I could go back and speak to myself at that age, I would probably have a chat with myself to let me know that it's really okay to be different. You just have to own it. But, I did not own it then. To me, It really was a sign of weakness (I am still processing why I thought this, because my parents went to great lengths to make me not feel this way)
I was so instinctively against it, that when the NHS (Health services in England) contacted me about getting a surgery that I would never need to wear hearing aids again, I jumped at it...
(To be continued next week)