No One Listened by Leslie Bank

In August, everyone stopped talking to me; they spoke only in whispers. Even my teachers whispered. If it hadn’t been for the pain in my ears, I would have thought there was a conspiracy against me. I ignored the problem and it grew worse over the past month before I finally saw a doctor.

I wondered if I had an ear infection and had let it progress too far. I wondered if maybe my hearing was permanently damaged. This did not scare me, I am proficient in American Sign Language and audism has gained more awareness, so I knew employers could not discriminate against me if I lost my hearing. No, hearing loss was not scary at all. But everyday, every conversation, made me aware of the reality. Maybe I could handle losing my hearing, but society couldn’t. At work I had to ask my students to repeat themselves, much to their discomfort due to their already shy nature. At meetings and in class I would guess what was being discussed, sometimes having to face the fact I had obviously responded incorrectly.

I started avoiding social settings as much as possible, limiting my communication to texting, email, or Facebook. I rarely answered my phone anymore. Face to face, I would have to stare at the person talking or risk losing track of the conversation. My classmates and friends thought I was angry with them and my boyfriend thought I was ignoring him. In truth, I was frustrated. I wished that they knew American Sign Language so communication could flow without raising voices or trying patience.

It turned out that I had gotten a cold only affecting the tube connecting the ears and throat, a condition that could cause ear pain as well as hearing loss. I was prescribed cold medicine for the next two weeks to clear up the congestion, but nothing was prescribed for handling this communication challenge.

Leslie Bank originates from Turlock, CA, but came to San Jose to study at San Jose State University. Leslie has always been passionate about writing and languages and hopes one day to be published among the next greats for poetry, linguistics, TESOL, and speech-language pathology.

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