Growing up, I’ve always dealt with ear problems, whether it was from wax buildup, constant ear infections, or having to wear an ear plug to swim and shower. Hearing loss can be caused by noise, aging, disease, heredity, and other reasons. It doesn’t matter how old you are; anyone can be diagnosed with hearing loss.
When I was about four I had to get tubes in my eardrums because fluid kept building up and getting trapped. Fluid buildup can cause hearing loss and lots of ear infections. Before getting the tubes put in my ears, I had a hearing test with my pediatrician, which did not go well at all. I then went to an audiologist to have further tests, which confirmed that I needed the tubes. After I got the tubes there was an instant improvement in my hearing and that led me to start talking more.
In the summer of 2007, I had a follow-up appointment for the ear tubes. One of the tubes wasn’t there, which was expected since they’re supposed to fall out on their own. The other tube fell out after the doctor poked at it.
Later that year I got an infection which prompted a visit to the ear, nose, and throat doctor. I was about six at the time, and the ENT discovered that my right ear drum had not properly healed from the ear tubes. There was a small hole in my ear drum which caused hearing loss.
The doctor first recommended surgery to patch the hole when I was around seven. The surgery would essentially glue a little patch over the eardrum. The surgery didn’t work. After a couple of years passed when I was about eight, I had a second surgery to attempt to fix the hole. This time they used a grafted cartilage to cover the hole. This surgery didn’t work either. There was still a hole in my eardrum deteriorating my hearing. After the second surgery failed, I continued to get my hearing tested every six months. My hearing was always normal in my left ear but in my right ear, it fluctuated between mild and moderate hearing loss.
In September 2013 the audiologist recommended that I get a hearing aid. The hearing aid actually worked for a while. I was more chatty, according to my parents. However, I stopped wearing the hearing aid after a while since it grew to be uncomfortable.
Getting through college with hearing loss
I entered my freshman year at Cabrini in 2019 without a hearing aid. Although I didn’t use the Accessibility Resource Center for any accommodation I did do little things to help, such as sitting closer to the front of classrooms so I could hear my teachers better. Surprisingly, my hearing loss didn’t affect my social life in a huge way.
Hearing loss in the United States is a large problem. According to the NIDCD, one in eight people in the United States, which is about 13%, or 30 million, age 12 years or older has hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations. College students with some form of hearing loss don’t have a high graduation rate. According to EDUMED over 20,000 deaf or hard-of-hearing students have enrolled in post-secondary institutions annually. Only 30% of hearing-impaired students graduate with a four-year degree.
In the summer of 2021, a new doctor recommended another surgery to try one last time to fix my ear drum. There were two reasons to get this surgery. First, I was still getting ear infections every 18 months or so. Second, this surgery could improve my hearing. This time, the surgery only partially worked. I don’t get ear infections as often as I used to, and I don’t have to wear an ear plug anymore. Unfortunately, it didn’t improve my hearing at all.
Now that I’m in the process of completing the final semester of my senior year, I still struggle sometimes with hearing people or being in large groups of people.
Even though I probably would not be experiencing hearing loss right now if I continued wearing a hearing aid, I am glad I decided to stop wearing it because I would not have been comfortable or gotten used to wearing it. On average hearing aid can cost between $2,000 and $3,000. Until a hearing aid is made that is both comfortable to wear and somewhat affordable, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to wearing one unless my hearing gets drastically worse.