48-year old Darja Pajk has been working with disabled people for 25 years and she has brought up three daughters, partially on her own. Further, she has dealt with an unexplainable, progressive hearing loss since she was 23 years old. At this point, Darja has completely lost her hearing and uses cochlear implants that make her able to hear. Beforehand she has, however, benefitted from hearing aids. As she explains, she needs cochlear implants to be a part of the hearing world and in order to not let her hearing impairment suppress her; “Without hearing aids and now cochlear implants I would feel lost.”
Consequently, Darja used her hearing aids almost all the time until she got the cochlear implants and she cannot imagine how she should have been able to work without them. In her job, she is constantly in conversations and without the hearing aids this would not have been possible for her. Thus, she states, the hearing aids were a part of her.
Difficulties accepting the situation
However, Darja hasn’t always valued her hearing aids this way. At first, she had a hard time accepting the hearing aids and, for a long time, she was ashamed of them and hid them away under her long hair. Among other things, she thought that people wouldn’t like her and that the hearing loss would make her lonely. As a result, she didn’t tell other people about her impairment and thus she ended up actually feeling lonely and misunderstood.
As an example, Darja describes how she was afraid of conversations with people who did not know of her hearing loss and, at the same time, felt uncomfortable telling them about it. It came to the point when she started to avoid these kinds of situations, such as activities in her children’s school, thus allowing her hearing loss to isolate her from social life.
Feeling recognized and understood again
After suffering from hearing impairment for 15 years Darja finally accepted her circumstances and chose not to feel like there was something wrong with her. This was also the time she started telling people about her hearing loss:
“People reacted normally and I finally felt recognized again. Now, all my friends, co-workers, neighbors and friends of my daughters know I am hard of hearing. They understand the situation and most of them accept it very well.”
One of the experiences that Darja has benefitted from recently is engaging in the Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Slovenia. Here, she has met people who have the same problems as her and accordingly they fully understand her situation. As Darja explains they support each other.
Therefore, Darja’s advice to others who experience troubles with hearing is clear: besides acting on their experiences, thus getting their hearing checked and using hearing aids if necessary, Darja recommends that people tell others about their hearing loss and seek for someone with similar problems to talk with. This will help them to feel understood and recognized and to accept their hearing loss.