Can You Hear Me Now?

When it comes to genes, some get grandpa's dashing eyes or mom's dazzling hair. But I was not so lucky. From my father's side, I inherited a trait that medical science told us was not hereditary: the inability to hear.

At the age of 3, Mrs. Glogovsky and Mrs. Collar, my pre-school teachers, noticed I was having trouble comprehending directions. To test their theory, they conducted a simple test. Mrs. Glogovsky sat facing me, and Mrs. Collar sat behind me. When Mrs. Glogovsky spoke to me, I responded; however, when Mrs. Collar spoke to me I didn't utter a word. I was reading lips.

I was then taken to a specialist. To my parents' dismay, the doctor confirmed their suspicions; I had significant hearing loss. The doctor suggested placing tubes in each ear - like strands of clear spaghetti. The tubes would help drain the excess fluid in the ear-

drum.

The tubes, however, proved only a temporary fix. For the next several years, I suffered from ear infections on nearly a monthly basis.

By 10, the ear infections subsided to a normal childhood level. However, regular visits to the ear doctor were required to monitor the progress of my hearing loss.

Unfortunately, it was around this time I punctured my eardrum. After a series of medications and check-ups, I was back on track. Since then, my hearing has improved. Visits to the doctor are on an as-needed basis.

At the same time, I also witnessed my father deal with increased hearing loss. Seeing him struggle on a day-to-day basis has made me more resolute in my goal to teach those who are hard of hearing.

Considering my younger brother also has a significant hearing deficit, one can only imagine dinnertime conversations. Simple phrases like "please pass the ketchup" turn into a five-minute ordeal.

Other conversations steer completely off course. A straightforward request like, "Take out the trash" is mistaken for "Did you get gas?"

Hearing deficiencies are not viewed in the same light as vision disabilities. Glasses are nearly as common as braces. For those who do not wish to sport spectacles, contacts are a simple solution. However, there is no easy way to conceal a hearing aid. Both my brother and I wore braces through middle school and high school; nonetheless the fear of ridicule has wrestled my brother away from wearing the hearing aid he so desperately needs.

The old adage, just smile and nod, has a much greater meaning to those who truly cannot hear the conversation. I often give a slight grin and a hearty bob of the head when the conversation is barely audible. Try as I might to read lips, words are not often enunciated enough for me to comprehend. The real loss is not what is being compensated, but what is being missed altogether.

Pretending to understand conversations may be possible with friends; however, in the classroom it may inflict severe consequences. My brother consistently misses homework assignments that were not written, but given orally as the class scurried out the door.

I am fortunate that my hearing loss has not hindered my education. Regrettably, there are many others who are not nearly as lucky. It is my desire to aid children who are struggling with hearing loss. Through both general education classes and specialized courses, I hope to enhance my knowledge in this subject. I plan to learn sign language to assist those who are either unable to or have difficulty with verbal communication.

Additionally, I would advocate for classroom amplification systems. Such systems would benefit not only hearing impaired students, but also those with no hearing related problems, creating a win-win situation for everyone.

Eighteen years of experience and observation have played a significant role in my career decision. Through use of different mediums, I hope to connect with students and help them to fulfill their potential.

Alexandra Carlton, 18, lives in Voorhees.