We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofGabriela Benitez

I lost my hearing in my left ear before I was one year old. I lost it due to a surgery I had and I grew up only being able to hear through one ear. It never bothered me until I realized I wasn't like everybody else.

I first realized I didn't have hearing in one ear in kindergarten when I had my first surgery to try to fix my hearing. When people talked to me it was hard for me to hear them especially if it was loud around us. I usually asked them to repeat what they are saying. By first grade I desperately wondered what it was like to be able to hear through both ears. I used to cry alone wishing I could miraculously get my hearing back one day. 

As I got older I slowly kept losing more and more hearing. I would have conversations with my mom. She kept having to repeat herself and ask, “Gabby are you really not able to hear me?” “ Yeah, why?” I would answer  and she would get a worried look on her face and simply say “maybe it's time to get your hearing checked again.” 

I never wanted people to look at me differently. I didn't want to be that weird girl that wasn't able to hear. I kept it to myself and never talked about it. I wouldn't tell anyone even my teachers, though sometimes I had to so I could get better seating in class so I could hear what they were saying. 

When I got to high school I got a new doctor and a few weeks before my first visit I got my first hearing aid. The doctor wanted to know if I liked it. Well I couldn't tell you because I barely wore it. I probably wore it a dozen times in over six months.  I only told two or three friends about the hearing aid, but I never showed it to them. I was scared to tell them,I didn't want to get judged.Surprisingly they thought it was cool.  But I was embarrassed to wear it. 

When I went to the new doctor in the middle of freshman year, he said that there might be a surgery that would get my hearing back. I was so excited I wanted my mom to book the operation as soon as possible. I had the surgery in March and missed a week of school to recover. I was finally able to hear! It was not perfect, but better than I had had in so many years. A few weeks later there was an assembly and I remember hearing people clap. I had never noticed that clapping was so loud. It shocked me. 

But three months later it all went downhill. The hearing I gained I completely lost and more. I was devastated. At the beginning of this year, my junior year, I went to the doctor again. He suggested I get a hearing aid permanently.. He and his assistant both tried to convince me that it was my best option.  

Then his assistant told me, “I really think you should get a hearing aid because as a woman there are going to be so many obstacles in your way and you don't want the fact that you can’t hear to be one of them.” Then she told me, there are great designs that are so small you can't even notice them and “it's one less obstacle to worry about.” 

For the first time I realized maybe a hearing aid wasn’t so bad. Maybe I should give it a chance. This woman helped me realize there wasn't anything to be ashamed about and that all it meant was I needed a little extra help, and that was okay because getting the help I needed would make a difference.