Hearing Loss Journeys

Find encouragement in other people’s experiences

We know that a hearing loss diagnosis can be really frightening and depressing — we’ve all received the news. We understand the desire to ignore hearing loss — we’ve all tried to fake our way through it. And we get that living with hearing loss often feels lonely and isolating — it’s hard to miss-hear conversations.

But on the flip side, millions of people are making a hearing loss journey with you. And many, eventually figure out how to accept their loss, move forward, and ultimately to thrive. Below are a few of these stories, told by people with hearing loss stories in their own words.

If you’d like to share your hearing loss journey, please reach out to us at info@hearingloss-wa.org.

Ib Dabo

Color photo of a smiling man looking up and away from the camera. He's wearing a blue checkered shirt.

Thanks to a campus hearing screening, I was diagnosed with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss when I was in graduate school at Towson University. All of a sudden I got to understand why I isolated myself from some people. Why I stayed away from a lot of social interaction. I got to understand why I was stressed out a lot, especially when I was in school.

I was devastated when I received my hearing loss diagnosis because I did not know many young people, or many in the Black community, with hearing loss. It took me several years to process the grief and look for support, I felt hopeless. When I received my hearing aids, it changed everything. To hear so many new and beautiful sounds, like on a beautiful sunny morning hearing the birds. It was amazing all the sounds I heard and it made a big difference.

My advice when you get diagnosed with hearing loss is—get support and be easy on yourself. I found the HLAA community through a Google search, became a member and attended the virtual convention in 2021. Now I am on the HLAA Board of Directors! When I made that decision that I’m going to get involved with HLAA—that’s when I made the decision my goal was that I’m finally going to step out and stop hiding my hearing loss. Learn more.

Katherine Bouton

Color photo of a woman with short hair and glasses. She's smiling and looking away and to the right.

Like many people with hearing loss, I thought I could fake it. I worked for 22 years at The New York Times, a competitive and youthful environment. At first, I heard about 90 percent of what was said. By the time I left, I was hearing about 10 percent, and that was with a hearing aid and a cochlear implant. Almost to the end, I convinced myself I was doing just fine.

How did I do it? How do others  do it? Email. Lipreading. Bravado. I skipped meetings at work if I could, and when I couldn’t I’d sometimes ask participants to follow up with an email. Really frustrating were company-wide meetings. Every year Bill Keller, the executive editor, would hold a meeting for the editorial staff, bringing us up on plans and answering questions about editorial policy. I’d get the gist of Bill’s remarks, which were amplified. But I never heard a remark or question from the audience. I might intuit the tone—hostile, exasperated, informational— by reading body language. Since I couldn’t hear the questions, I never asked one myself.

Excerpt from, “Shouting Won’t Help, But Writing About It Did,” HLAA Hearing Life Magazine, September/October 2013. Download the full story.

Cheri Perazzoli

Color photo of a woman with glasses smiling directly at the camera. She's wearing a jean jacket.

I was diagnosed with genetic progressive hearing loss when I was a child. By the time I reached college, my hearing loss was a major issue, but the last thing I wanted was to be different from everyone else. I was lucky to have friends who were sympathetic, but no one really understood how my hearing loss was always with me—if we were at a party, or a game, or in class.

When I became a young mother, I wanted to participate in my local Mommy and Me classes. This meant overcoming my fear of being stigmatized, disclosing my hearing loss and asking my instructor and classmates for help. During introductions, I explained that I would need to be close to the instructor or the person speaking and would need my classmates and their children to talk one at a time for me to hear. The group was open to accommodating me and we easily incorporated taking turns by using the Native American tradition of the talking stick. Later, a mom shared that her son had used the talking stick concept to communicate with relatives struggling with hearing loss. That’s when I realized that in advocating for myself, I could be a change agent for others.

Kimberly Parker

Color photo of a woman smiling directly at the camera. She's wearing a purple sweater.

My first love has always been the theater and my dream was to be a professional actor. When I received a scholarship to study theatre in college, everything was on track. Then at age 22, I was diagnosed with a severe bi-lateral hearing loss. I was in my junior year of college and completely devastated. That diagnosis ended my dream to pursue a theater career.

Or so I thought.

In 2012, I was able to undergo surgery for a cochlear implant and went from a 12% to a 92% speech comprehension. My life has been forever changed and I have returned to my love and passion for theatre! I have written, produced and now perform a one-woman play, “Lost in Sound”, based on my lifelong journey through progressive hearing loss, to deafness, then hearing again with the miracle of technology.

I am using my play to educate and advocate for the hard of hearing and the hearing alike and to shed light on the silent epidemic that is hearing loss. When I hear how this play is making a positive difference in people’s lives and empowering them to take action—it is amazing and deeply rewarding. Learn more.