An inspiring submission.
Taranjit Narang, mother of three and tea-lover, has been dealing with hearing loss for 15 years. Diagnosed with Ménière’s Disease, her hearing ability has dropped, despite a cochlear implant surgery on one side and a hearing aid on the other. Here, she bravely shares her empowering story to help others in dealing with their disabilities. If you would like to reach out to her for support, you can reach her at email@example.com
It is no secret that the Thai-Indian community in Bangkok is very social. We regularly meet up for wedding celebrations, kitty parties, or impromptu family gatherings. As a woman who was married at 19, I was introduced to the social scene quite early on. All was well. I had beautiful children, with twin daughters and a son. I lived in a large family and my days were filled with joy, activities, and lots of people.
Except I began to feel ill. It started with vertigo, and nausea for days. At times, I couldn’t get out of bed. I always felt pressure in my ear and heard a bell ringing. I had low blood pressure and felt weak. The main thing, though, was that I knew there was something wrong with my hearing.
So I went for a check-up. In 2003, I went to see an otolaryngologist and I was diagnosed with Ménière’s Disease, an inner-ear condition where I experience vertigo, tinnitus, and progressive deafness. There is no cure. There are treatments, like medication to ease the symptoms, but no cure. While it was great to finally have a diagnosis, I had to learn how to live with the reality of it. My hearing progressively worsened, and I could not hide my condition. I was the first in my family, and community that I knew of, to be diagnosed with such a condition.
It can be upsetting when you feel like you are missing out on things, like what your children say or your friends mutter around the dinner table. I remember attending parent-teacher conferences and putting on a smile when I could not hear my children’s teachers. My friends started feeling frustrated about having to repeat their sentences, and some even stopped inviting me to events. But throughout the years of living with the disease, I tried to keep things in perspective.
Be grateful for what you can hear. Even if you don’t catch every word, you can still enjoy being with others, and maintain a sense of humour about the miscommunications, because after all, we are all people who make silly mistakes and enjoy laughing.
Then, as now, there is a stigma attached to my deafness: it seems to imply that I’m not too bright, or not worth talking to, as people have to repeat themselves. It used to make me feel awful asking people to accommodate my needs, and I sometimes made myself smaller just to avoid inconveniencing others.
But now, after seeing my own children go off into the world to live their own lives, I have slowly learned to ask for the accommodations that I need. This is part of the lesson that anyone with a disability, young or old, with visible or invisible disabilities, needs to learn. No matter the disability or its extent, it is neither something to hide, nor yours to bear alone.
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