This is a continuation of a mini-series I started about my experience with microtia. If you aren’t caught up, click here.
Growing up without hearing on one side had its pros and cons. Some examples:
Pros: I could easily block out annoying sounds if I slept on my right side and I learned to lip read.
Cons: I had a hard time hearing people in really loud places, while walking I had to face the person to hear what they were saying and I couldn’t tell with accuracy which direction certain sounds were coming from.
A vivid memory I remember from my childhood that encapsulated my experience growing up with one-sided hearing – playing the telephone game. It so happened that we were going was counter-clockwise. I was so nervous when it got to my turn to hear the phrase. It meant the person on my left would have to whisper into my ear, but because I couldn’t hear out of my left I had to turn my head and listen with my right while all eyes were on me. I felt so embarrassed. And I never played telephone again.
But over the years I learned to adapt to my surroundings and was able to live a pretty normal life.
Gaining Confidence in School
After having reconstructive surgery, my life changed but not in the way I expected it to. I was still self-conscious about my ear. However, I did have the courage to tie my hair up when I needed to have a clear sight while moving around. Despite my low self-esteem, I got the courage to try out for the soccer team in high school. To this day, it’s still one of my proudest moments – to be able to step out of my comfort zone and not let my ear hold me back. It was something high school Annie needed. It really showed her that she could push through all the negative thoughts in her head and pursue what she wanted.
I went off to college in 2011 and it’s true when they say you can re-invent yourself. The college environment gave me millions of opportunities to force myself out of my comfort zone. Whether it’s speaking up in class or meeting new people, there was always something new to experience. Even though I still wasn’t comfortable sharing my microtia openly with other people, I was gaining my confidence little by little through other accomplishments.
Studying abroad in London was the first time I didn’t feel awkward or scared to tell people about microtia. I think it was because I built up my confidence enough that eventually it didn’t feel like such a big deal to talk about. I remember my friends asking me about it. I casually answered that I was born with microtia and that I couldn’t hear out of my left ear. It helped that they weren’t afraid to ask me about it because I’m more willing to talk about it if people bring it up first.
When I realized it was so much easier just to break the ice about my hearing impairment when I walked side-by-side with someone, it became something I did whenever I had a hard time hearing them. Once they knew about my hearing, they usually said it’ was something they didn’t know about me and that it was cool.
Learning I could hear
After moving back to Taiwan, my mom asked if I wanted to go back to my old surgeon and see if he could do some minor adjustments. I think it was because in the past I mentioned to her that I wasn’t satisfied with my ear. At that point in my life I accepted my ear as it was. I didn’t think it was worth going through another surgery, especially since I had painful recoveries with my first two surgeries.
Until recently, I always thought I was deaf in my left ear because my parents and doctor told me so. Back then I didn’t really know how hearing worked so I never thought to question it and just accepted it as fact. I truly thought everyone with microtia were deaf in that ear.
Growing up I felt extremely alone because I didn’t know anyone who understood my struggles. One day I decided to join a microtia Facebook group to connect with people that had similar experiences. I didn’t engage with them too much but it was comforting to read all the different stories from people. I found out that many parents had their babies implanted with bone-anchored hearing aids to help them in school. This got me thinking, Am I really deaf? Or can I actually hear? I didn’t know this was even a possible option for me.
These questions bothered me for a really long time. I decided to get my hearing tested again just to be certain. I made an appointment with an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) and from there, got a hearing test done. Turns out I qualified to get a bone-anchored hearing aid! What sold me on this amazing device was when I got the chance to test out a simulation of what I would hear if I got a hearing aid. For the first time in my life, I could hear people speaking clearly on my left side without turning my head. I was speechless. Technology is incredible!
Why I got reconstructive surgery again
During my follow up appointment with my ENT, my mom again asked if I wanted to get some minor adjustments done since I would already be in surgery to get my hearing aid implanted. I figured why not? My main concern was to be able to hear better but if I could also be able to lift my ear away from my head in order to wear a face mask, that’d be a plus. In Taiwan, people wear face masks a lot – either to prevent others from getting their cold or to block their faces from pollution when riding a scooter. I adjusted my expectations this time around so I wouldn’t be disappointed like last time. As long as I could hook a face mask behind my ear, I was satisfied.
Now that I use a hearing aid, I don’t feel as exhausted at the end of a day of socializing in big groups. I can also look straight ahead so I don’t bump into anything while I walk and talk with someone. These are the biggest impact I’ve seen in my life now that I can hear on both sides. I’m still getting used to hearing on both sides but it’s definitely been a positive experience so far.
What I realized about my body and health is that I am in control. I know my body better than anyone else. I used to blindly accept what doctors told me. But sometimes it’s okay to question them and ask for a second opinion. After all, it’s up to you to decide what is best for you after gathering all the information available. I’m glad I decided to take charge of my own health and get my hearing tested again. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
Would you guys be interested in hearing about my experience regarding my bone-anchored hearing aid? If so, like this post or leave me a comment! I’d be happy to answer any questions you have.