Sunday, April 6, 2014

Have You Walked a Mile Yet?

There is an old adage that states to understand someone is to walk a mile in their shoes.  That was never meant literally, but was meant to stress not judging people and urging an understanding into how people feel, think, and respond.  What makes someone tick?  Why do they do certain things?  No one knows how any certain individual will react to a situation or why.  However, the adage does have value, even more so in today's environment and society.  Why?  Social media, technology, and a desire to understand are the tools used widely on the high road and the path to a positive outcome.

Let's take a look at each one individually and then we'll realize how their cumulative effect molds our understanding and reaction to things we don't have a firsthand knowledge of.  Social media can be a harmful instrument when used to bully, extort, and misdirect persons.  However, when you are in short supply of understanding or answers, it is a natural go-to weapon in today's educational arsenal.  I know I used it when I was diagnosed with viral labrynthitus.  What the heck is that?  I didn't know, but I did know it wasn't a good thing...but since I had never heard of it, was it rare or widely known?  When I was finally able to focus and overcome the vertigo, I immersed myself into Google, WebMD, etc.  I learned so much about what was going on with me and what could be the worst case scenarios.  Unfortunately, one of the worst cases was hearing loss in at least one ear.  I ended up as one of those "fortunate" people.  However, others suffer from vertigo for months or years and cannot function or work.  That was something I was lucky enough to learn how to overcome quickly by pushing myself to relearn how to walk, move, and function with the inner ear balance loss in my left ear.

Social media then continued to assist me.  When I was told my hearing loss was permanent, the technician told me my choices were either hearing aids or to have a screw put into my head.  Say what?!?  Then when I learned the "screw in your head" was a cochlear implant, or bone conduction implanted device, I quickly got educated on the different devices, how they worked, the advancements in deafness treatments and the improvements in the devices, and I finally watched the surgery I was considering to make my decision.  After using social media, my new disability seemed so much less scary and daunting.  I now owned it instead of reacting to it.  I made the decisions that impacted my life again.  I was no longer forced to just accept my circumstances and situation.  Social media had done its job!

Then, technology has to do its job to help that mile walk happen.  Deafness, to me, was an absence of hearing which was overcome with sign language and attitude.  Holy cow, even with only Single-Sided Deafness (SSD), how much I've learned about how little I knew.  Many individuals today have come together with research, education, gumption, and technology to overcome this lost sense in their life.  Bilateral deafness is hearing loss in both ears.  What did they miss in their lives?  Imagine not hearing your loved one's voice, the birds and bees in the summertime, the warning siren of a fire truck, or the tunes of your favorite musician.  Amongst many other items, these are some of them.  Yet, with technology today, these are items which they can rediscover, or hear for the very first time.  I've had SSD for only six months now and am learning the road to recovery and am networking with those whom have traveled this road already, some of them traveling the technological road to hearing their entire lives.  They, to me, are the pioneers I get to benefit from now.  I hope to be that inspiration, example, and support for others in the future as they traverse their troubles and struggles.  I wrote "Bushels and Barrels" several years ago and based it off of life's struggles and how to overcome them and remain positive by looking beyond the challenges to recognize the blessings of life.  I never knew I would be tested to this extreme, but having that in my toolkit of experiences allowed me to see that I am blessed and can do such much more with this new "point of connection" with those struggling in life.

Technology has made it so those whom cannot hear naturally now can hear those sounds we take for granted.  Even better, in a more natural sound and distinction of direction from which the sound travels.  Science and engineering has come such a long way.  I am still awaiting final approval for the implant surgery, but am now wearing my new hearing aids.  They are helping me already, and they are so minimal, it's almost like they aren't even there.  They are giving me so much more back than they are requiring of me with respect to care, maintenance, and comfort.  I was with a group of my friends over the past few days, they didn't even realize I had the devices on, but I felt so much more a part of the conversation again.  I was no longer isolated when positioned at a place of disadvantage at the gathering table.  When meeting with a group of individuals at a support and educational gathering in the past few days, what an inspiration these individuals were.  There were those from eight months in age all the way to 71 years young.  Different experiences and reasons they had lost their hearing, but all together because technology was fixing that very thing for them.  I was a newbie in a world of those advanced and aided by technology.  What an adventure and a pleasure to be part of this.  I am blessed and my world is larger because of this journey!

Finally, a desire to understand is essential in overcoming an obstacle.  Researching via social media and meetings has given me a comfort in my new world.  There are so many others with larger challenges than I have and they are so positive because they understand their situation.  Their knowledge gives them comfort and control.  I now also have that.  Walking a mile in the shoes of deafness has been only the beginning of my new journey, but I now have tools to made that journey a smooth ride, walk, hike, and journey.  What walk have you taken lately and what tools have you used in that journey?  What has it "forced" you to learn?  What understanding and appreciation do you have because of this journey?  What do you plan to do with this new knowledge and confidence?  Own it, share it, and recreate it in others!  That is my challenge in hearing loss, what is yours?

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