Today, about 36 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss. However, for those who have never experienced what it’s like to live with this condition, the wide spectrum of effects hearing loss can have on daily life can be hard to comprehend.
Anna Bella D’Amico, an 11-year-old with hearing loss, recently wrote to us about how hearing loss has changed her life, and how she refuses to let it stop her from being an exceptional student and athlete.
Hi, my name is Anna Bella D’Amico. I was diagnosed at 4 years old with a bilateral hearing loss, and it has since changed my life. When I was born, I failed my infant hearing test and was scheduled to take another at two weeks old. When I did, I passed in both ears. My parents never took it into consideration that I have a hearing loss. Shortly before my fourth birthday, I told my mom that I don’t always hear things people are saying. She scheduled an appointment with audiologist, Dr. Janie Barnet, only to find out that I have a bilateral hearing loss and could not hear below 55 decibels. My mother bought me my first pair of hearing aids in July of 2006. My first pair was from Widex, but now I wear a Phonak Ambra MicroP. I was just starting kindergarten the fall after I received my hearing aids. I was terrified, yet excited. I was terrified about starting a new school and what the kids would think of me, yet excited that I was about to face a new chapter of my life head on. I knew that I would get a lot of questions asked of me like, “What are those things for?” and “Why do you need them?”
Kindergarten was amazing. I used an FM willingly and had to go to speech three times a week. I made good friends whom I would later catch up with again. Even though I was impaired, I was one of the smartest kids in my class. My kindergarten teacher recommended that I be tested for the gifted and talented program. My mom took her advice. I ended up getting 93 percent out of 100 and made the program. That fall, I started first grade at a public school in the G and T class (gifted and talented).
First grade was amazing; a lot like kindergarten, but I finally felt I was being challenged by the work. I then continued on to second and third grade. As I got to the third grade, I felt some of my friendships go downhill. Kids got meaner and I felt lonely. I turned to the friends whom I knew would accept me, flaws and all. Those friends got me through grade school. I had a thick skin, so throughout third grade the hurtful words bounced off of me. However, when I got to fourth grade the words got meaner. Once again, I turned to my friends, but this time I couldn’t let these comments go. This time my parents got involved. The comments stopped, but not for long. They continued to the point where my self-esteem kept dropping. I knew the cause. They were jealous of the attention I got. I didn’t ask for this attention, but I attracted it.
Finally, fourth grade was over and I prayed that they matured over the summer. I was somewhat lucky – a couple of them realized what they were doing was immature and they stopped. In fifth grade, it was a repeat of third and fourth grade, only this time with an adult thrown in there as well. This time I handled the problem by talking to a therapist, my principal, and again, my parents. As the school year drew to a close, I found friends in other grades and classes. I also became closer to my friends outside of school. I have now graduated fifth grade and realized that my flaws would only be accepted by my family and true friends. I’ve learned that what happened in grade school would soon be a blur compared to the new adventures I was about to take. What I learned from elementary school had nothing to do with math, or reading or writing – I learned that nothing anyone says defines me, as long as I don’t let it. That was my biggest lesson. Hearing loss is the thing that I control, it doesn’t control me. If my hearing loss is the thing that is blocking me from reaching any goal, it only makes me try harder.
I am a soccer player. It is my passion. When I first started playing, my parents and I were a little nervous about me playing. I took the risk of damaging my hearing aids. Now, after playing for five or six years, I learned that it was so worth it. When my mom and I are at hearing loss events, and I see all these people hiding behind their hearing loss I wonder why they’re embarrassed. They’re raising awareness for hearing loss, yet how can they do that if they don’t embrace their own challenges. I commend the small group of people who do accept their hearing loss, because they truly understand that you control you, not anyone, or anything.