The first acoustic neuroma (brain tumor of the ear) developed in my left ear by age five. The tumor, the radiation treatment and the surgeries that followed left not even a decibel of hearing behind. By age fourteen, another acoustic neuroma, which we had been aware of, had developed. It was the last surgery of that ear that drained most of the hearing. This was much harder on my parents who wanted to deny my prognosis. Their son became “deaf” that year.

Growing up HoH (hard of hearing) was filled with many challenges. My social skills were below that of my peers due to my inability to fully understand their speech. Socializing and making friends was a roadblock along my journey. It got to the point that by eighth grade, in all of my loneliness, I began to feel nothingness and my mind was never too far from suicide.

Since first grade, I had always been provided with a deaf educational specialist throughout my time in the public school system. As a child I spent a couple hours each week with my specialist learning to speech read and sign. By high school, I only saw my specialist for an hour a week just for emotional support. Someone who understood the trials a deaf child had faced and a Deaf man would overcome.

In addition to speech reading and sign language, my specialists were my advocates for all things relating deafness, from adaptive listening equipment in the classroom to my first hearing aid. From a live captioner who sat in class to type out the teacher’s speech to my journey into deaf school, my specialists were always one step behind me, allowing me to lead the way.

I had visited Oregon School for the Deaf once before and met with the principal of the middle school one time before the tour. My mother had a negative perspective throughout the entire tour, convinced deaf school had nothing I’d benefit from. One day after school in eighth grade, my mother took me by the hand into the kitchen. Her eyes were red and puffy, she had been crying. She sat me down on the kitchen chair, got on her knees and, through tears, did the most selfless thing she had ever done for me. She told me that I was deaf, saying it more for herself than for me. She told me there was a place where I wouldn’t have to wake up everyday to the challenges that I thought would always be my life. She reassured me (or herself) that she wasn’t sending me away. That she loved me and believed in me.

I believe I became “Deaf” that year. I would soon learn to embrace it as not just a part of my life, but a central part of my identity. Someday I would even learn to seek motivation from it, becoming inspired by silence.

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