“Why does everyone else have hearing?” - Comparison
To my deaf and hard of hearing friends,
“Why does everyone seem to have hearing and I do not?”
You have no doubt wondered this while growing up. I have definitely visited this question numerous times throughout my life. Your parents struggled with it when they first discovered your deafness.
I want to talk to you about something that is far too common in every culture: comparison. Theodore Roosevelt one’s stated: “Comparison is a thief of joy.” I first heard this quote in third grade, but it was not until I was an adult that I truly learned to appreciate this statement. I believe most people are no stranger to the art of comparing oneself to another. As anyone who has done it knows, it can indeed be a ‘thief of joy’. It robs us of far more than it offers, if anything.
While everyone should work on the art of ignoring the urge to compare oneself to others, this is especially critical for people with deafness or any other disability. Here’s why:
Comparison leads to frustration, especially towards the disability. On an honest note, I was familiar with the frustration resulting from deafness while growing up. This stemmed from a few factors including being the only deaf individual in my entire community (including all friends and family members), having no deaf and speaking role models, and constantly feeling excluded from certain hearing based activities (such as talking in noisy environments, singing, dancing, etc.). However, obstacles are often disguised opportunities for growth. Some of the most determined individuals I know, struggled the most. Most of us know successful and wealthy individuals today who used their impoverished backgrounds to propel themselves forward and upward. Deafness should not be the unique trait to develop resentment towards. Rather it should be used as an opportunity to drive oneself further. For me, this was particularly evident in school where I used my disadvantages as a deaf student to push myself to succeed academically, probably more than I would have had I been born with functional hearing. This included meeting with teachers outside the classroom to go over class material, participating greatly in the classroom, continuously asking questions, and advocating for myself. Avoid turning to deafness as a tool for frustration and resentment. Rather, use it work harder, better, and smarter than you would have if you had hearing.
Comparisons are not fair. Think of life as one long, continuous exam. Here’s the twist: everyone has different exam questions and distinctive skillsets to solve them. It would be unreasonable to compare the scores of two different tests, by two unique test takers. In relation to deafness, it serves no reasonable benefit to compare oneself to others with hearing. My mother spoke at least seven languages fluently while I am lucky enough to speak one. It is not realistic to compare our linguistic skillsets given her illustriously sharp hearing and my inability to hear a roaring plane take off. In reality, we are both extremely successful in our unique situations regarding linguistics. Never compare yourself or your deafness to your hearing friends, family members, classmates, or co-workers. You are too unique to be compared to. If you must, compare yourself to your past progress. The only person you can reasonably desire to surpass is your former self. That is the only comparison you should use to propel yourself further. Other individuals should be welcomed as sources of knowledge, inspiration, and support, but not sources for comparison.
Comparisons take the focus away from yourself and more importantly, your unique needs. Your focus is instead on the other person in the comparison equation. Social media is especially powerful in driving this point home. It is extremely easy to scroll through newsfeeds and put all of our focus on others’ lives. To tie this with the last point, it is also incredibly unfair because it often involves comparing others’ highs with our personal lows. It is simply not reasonable, balanced, or beneficial to do this form of comparison. Your desires, needs, and accomplishments are unique to you individually and that should be the center of your focus in working to achieve your goals.
My family, including my parents, sister, relatives, and CHF, wisely raised me on the philosophy that being deaf is never something to be ashamed of. In fact, my family has flipped the comparison question, reversing the scenario with why do they all need to wear glasses and I do not? Regardless of how your deafness came about, it is never something to feel guilty for. For myself, I was born deaf with a rare common cavity malformation. It is as natural as the nose or hair color that I was given. Comparing oneself to classmates, friends, family members, co-workers, etc. all of whom may have hearing, is not only completely unfair, but it can also lead to frustration and shift the focus away from your personal needs and accomplishments.
“Why does everyone seem to have hearing and I do not?”
The next time this question pays you a visit, change the concept to “How can I use this unique trait that only I appear to have, to my benefit? How do I change this disadvantage into an advantage? How do I use this obstacle to drive me to accomplish my goals?” I can confirm the more obstacles you overcome relating to your deafness, the stronger your determination becomes and the more your gratitude grows.