I think it’s basically impossible for a person with normal hearing to understand what it’s like to have a hearing loss. The only way to have a good idea is to know someone with a hearing loss – but still, this can’t replace firsthand experience.

Recently, I was talking to a friend who is having a difficult time adjusting to a cochlear implant. Although he is an adept lipreader, watching him struggle to follow the most basic conversation, and the amount of energy it zapped from him, was heartbreaking to see. And it occurred to me, maybe the best way to describe it is: hearing is freedom.

When you can hear, you can have a conversation with anyone you want (well, provided you speak the same language). You can conduct business, exchange transactions, get your needs met. You can ask any question and understand the answer.

You wake up and live in a world that is set up for your level of hearing – I can’t tell you how mind-blowing this concept is, because I’ve never really had that. To wake up and just be, without struggle or worry about how your hearing will cause problems during the day, seems so incredibly liberating to me.

You can assume that what you hear is the same as what other people hear, and thus, if something doesn’t make sense, you don’t need to feel embarrassed about asking for clarification.

Some of the biggest bonding experiences in life – like getting together with loved ones and dipping in and out of simultaneous conversations – are effortless for you.

You can travel and understand all the announcements on the P.A. system (or if you can’t, nobody else did either). It’s easy to travel by yourself.

You have no stress about whether or not you’ll be able to hear in crucial times, such as during a job interview or at a doctor’s appointment.

I could go on and on, but essentially it boils down to the same essence: hearing is freedom. People who hear normally don’t realize this, because they don’t know any different. But it a huge, liberating gift to have each and every day.

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