It was October 2013 when I got the greatest shock of my life: I was about to completely lose my sense of hearing. Years earlier, I had been getting comments from family and friends about how poorly I hear almost everything—from the phone ringing incessantly downstairs to yells that should have reached my ears on the second try. That’s how profound my hearing loss had become. And I have endured those snide remarks long enough before admitting to myself that I was becoming deaf.
Whether it was an inborn complication or a progressive disability, the EENT specialist could not tell. What I remember vividly is the time during fourth grade when an ant entered my left ear. The general physician who was a family friend prescribed a medicine in form of eardrops which should be applied in my inner ear, probably to dissolve the freaking ant. Every day at school, during lunch breaks, my sister. who was a year older, would come to my classroom and apply the medicine. Once we decided to stop the ridiculous ritual, my hearing ability had dropped by 50%.
My mom gave birth to me when she was having a flu, and for this reason I was born with a cataract on my left eye. I have lived through my entire high school and college life looking like a full-fledged nerd because of the thick-rimmed spectacles I wore, not really paying much attention to my “other” disability.
On my last year in college, I had the most embarrassing experience related to my deafness. We were having a quiz and I, who was sitting at the back of the room, scored zero. The prof asked me if I heard his questions because everyone in class knows I’m a candidate for cum laude. I simply said yes, but that was because I wasn’t paying attention.
After graduation, a self-assessment period occurred and I thought I would have a hard time getting a job in the media industry. I decided to try online freelance writing and thrived in it. However, my parents were concerned about me not living up to my potential because of my “disability.” They kept encouraging me to apply in newspaper firms, but every time I try, I end up being rejected. All because I can’t even handle a proper conversation due to my alarming hearing issue.
I went into a depression. But it was a period in my life, when I was in the lowest point, that made me consider having my ears finally checked by a real EENT doctor. The doctor, after assessing the results of my hearing test, regretfully broke it to me: I am deaf and there is nothing that can be done to make it better. The nerves in both of my ears have ceased to function.
Learning to accept the news was more painful to the people around me than it was to me. It seemed like I have pre-conditioned my mind about the possible long-term effects it may have in my life. One day, while my mom and I were washing clothes, I randomly blurted out that I miss hearing her voice. In a blink, she cried and embraced me. She was so sad; nothing could make her stop crying. I told her that I am okay. That I have a memory of the voices of people close to me. There was really nothing to cry about. Common sounds like the patter of the rain on the tin roof and the click-clack of the shoes on wooden floor are etched in my mind that I sometimes imagine them as if I could actually hear again.
I am now officially a PWD (Person With Disability). I have never realized how “fortunate” I am to have lost my sense of hearing until I discovered the many ways I am luckier than an ordinary hearing person. For one, I get to have discounts on prime and basic commodities. I also have the privilege of being prioritized in government agencies and some establishments. But, most especially, I no longer hear noise—noise that I have unpleasant memories of like firecrackers, thunder, and the neighbor who belts out videoke favorites at the wee hours of the night. I don’t get to hear “chismis,” dogs barking all at once, and bass blasted to full volume. While everyone else is complaining about whatever they hear, I am just here, enjoying the silence.
This is not to say, though, that I don’t get sad from time to time. I actually wonder how I would end up getting married. But such things are least of my concerns right now. What I intend to do is to inspire others—hearing-capable or not—by doing what I love the most, which is writing.
Indeed, there are many things that come to you as blessings in disguise, if only you could see. I have chosen to take every challenge this way. So can you.