When Kristin was just 18 months old, her parents found out
she was partially deaf in both ears. Kristin is all grown up now
- she's 17 and in her freshman year of college. She overcame
many obstacles and has some advice for kids who are hearing
impaired - and for other kids who want to know what it's like
to have trouble hearing.
Kindergarten was the first time I realized my hearing impairment
made me different. After attending a school for the hearing
impaired during my preschool years, my parents decided that I
should go to kindergarten at a regular school. My teacher was nice,
but I was the only student wearing hearing aids and an FM set (an
amplification device that hung around my neck like a portable
At first, I just cried when the other kids asked me about my
hearing problem. My mom saw that I was having difficulty explaining
my impairment and told me that I shouldn't feel ashamed or
embarrassed. She said the kids were only asking me because they
didn't understand about my hearing problem or why I would miss
school sometimes. I wasn't playing hooky - I was often visiting
doctors or having
I had 15 surgeries in all, but as I got older, I had fewer and
fewer problems with my
. And I learned to communicate so well that one of my high school
teachers didn't realize I had hearing problems until the last
day of class! I use only one hearing aid now and I have learned to
read lips - to watch the way a person's mouth moves to
understand what's being said.
Problems and Solutions
It has been a long road to get where I am today, but I did it.
And if you have a hearing impairment, I want you to know that you
can, too. Here is my best advice - both for kids who have hearing
problems and kids who don't!
Trying to fit in with friends at school.
Help other kids understand hearing problems and what you're
I have often found that kids are curious to know how a hearing
aid works. A lot of kids in my class have jumped at the chance to
try my hearing aid. Of course, it's not the best idea to share
your hearing aid (also called an ear mold) with a bunch of people!
It's a personal item, like a toothbrush. But you might be able
to borrow or buy a special device that allows people to hear what
you hear through your hearing aid. By letting your classmates hear
what a hearing aid does, you're teaching them about
Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and how I
would answer them:
Do you wear a hearing aid to bed?
Not usually, because it's uncomfortable. When I take it out, I
put it in a desiccant, which is a dehumidifier to dry out the
hearing aid. Sometimes, I forget though, and it gets misplaced. One
morning I was late for my summer job because my cat was playing
with my hearing aid and batted it down the stairs!
Can you get a hearing aid wet?
Definitely not. A hearing aid is a very expensive investment and
can be easily ruined by water. I try hard not to get mine wet. At
the beach, I sometimes stay close to shore and play in the surf so
it doesn't get splashed. If I want to go swimming, I have to
take it out.
What do you do when you play sports?
During some of my varsity volleyball games I was inside a hot,
stuffy gym and I got pretty sweaty. When I would make dives to save
the ball, the momentum would make the sweat from my forehead seep
into the hearing aid and cause it to malfunction temporarily. If it
was raining during my outdoor soccer games, I would wear slip-on
covers so my hearing aid would stay dry.
Don't stoop to their level and seek help from an adult.
Even if you try to explain your problem, some kids won't get
the message. Try not to let teasing get to you. I am a sensitive
person so this was hard for me. I decided that I wouldn't
return negative comments and that I'd get a grown-up to help me
if it was getting out of hand.
have hearing problems sometimes don't know how to treat someone
like me who does.
Try to understand what the hearing impaired person is going
If you have difficulty understanding what a hearing impairment is,
perhaps you could try on a pair of earplugs. They sell these at the
drugstore and there's a kind that molds to the shape of your
ear. Once you've put them in your ears, try to communicate with
family and friends for a few hours. This may help you to be more
patient and understanding to hearing impaired people. It can be
frustrating and embarrassing when you don't understand what
people are saying the first time.
But there are a few advantages to having a hearing aid. When I
am listening to my headphones on an airplane, all that I hear is my
music, because I have a special feature on my hearing aid that
blocks background noise, like the sound of the jet engine or other
people talking. I can also use this feature when I talk on the
telephone with a friend, so I hear only the person's voice.
However, there can be some disadvantages, too. For example, when
I go into new situations and meet new people, I have to explain
about my hearing impairment. I don't want it to get in the way
or cause problems. I even bought an alarm clock that vibrates under
my pillow, so I don't disturb my college roommate! If I use a
regular alarm clock, I need to turn up the noise
loud. I'm sure my roommate will be happy that I won't be
waking her up at 7 AM!
I think my unusual alarm clock is a cool thing. I like being a
little different from everyone else because I know that I am unique
in my own way and my friends accept me for that. My advice to all
kids is to be your own person. It's OK if you are not exactly
like everyone else. In fact, your individuality can make you truly
Robert C. O'Reilly, MD
Date reviewed: June 2006
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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