“To say that my hearing loss made dating complicated is an understatement.”
In honor of Valentine’s Day, CHC welcomes Sydney, a guest blogger and former “CHC kid” who shares her experiences on the dating scene. A big thank you, Sydney, for your candid and constructive answers to our questions about dating with a hearing loss.
Can you tell us about yourself?
Hi. My name is Sydney and I am a 24-year old woman from NYC who has bilateral cochlear implants. I just graduated from Syracuse University and am currently completing my Master’s at NYU in Event Management and building new experiences as a young adult, all while living in the middle of a pandemic.
It’s been my longtime desire to mentor others and be a useful resource for those obscure questions that others may be afraid to ask because I can think back to many different moments where I wish I had someone to ask or a place to go to read the answers to my many questions. I want the hearing loss community not to be afraid to ask questions, share experiences and situations and have someone say, “I know what you mean.” Because, trust me, “I know what you mean”!
Does having a hearing loss make dating extra complicated?
I’m going to break this question up into three different stages of my life.
Stage 1 – I was a high school student in a NYC private school and all I wanted was to fit in. I wasn’t even hoping to be the “popular” girl, but I just wanted to feel like I was someone other than who I was. I was not only dealing with all of the typical teenage insecurities, I was struggling with my identity as a hearing impaired teen. I recall one situation specifically, being invited to a pool party, immediately thinking I needed an excuse as to why I couldn’t go; I was too worried that the boy I had a crush on would find out I had a hearing loss and I couldn’t hear anything if I took off my implants to go in the pool. Needless to say I missed a lot of things that might have been very fun. I worked very hard at concealing my loss for many years; to say that my hearing loss made things complicated is an understatement.
Stage 2 – College, a new experience, living on my own, meeting new people and a chance to write the story the way I wanted people to see me. By the time I reached my sophomore year of college I knew that I was ready to start dating more seriously. I contemplated a lot of different situations in my head— the typical “Do I want to date a guy from that fraternity?” “Would a frat boy judge me?” “Would it be easier to be with a person who was also hearing impaired or did that just complicate matters worse?” There were many first experiences, most which didn’t amount to much, and many times my hearing loss went unnoticed. I entered into my first serious relationship during my senior year. I had finally reached a point where I could truly open up to someone and I wasn’t scared that he would run away. I found myself comfortable using the same analogies that my parents and teachers used to tell me. The same ones I would roll my eyes at when they would say it to make me feel better. But there I was, 22 years old and actually explaining to a guy how glasses were similar to implants or hearing aids.
Stage 3 – I’m currently living in stage three. Back home in NYC, a foundation of great friends and the confidence to date and find a person who I am compatible with. I want to enjoy this stage, with the end result of finding that right person to be with. I hope to find a guy that accepts my hearing loss, appreciates my accomplishments, sees me for who I am and encourages me to continue building my confidence personally and professionally.
Do you tend to talk about your hearing loss on a first date?
To be honest, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I actually told a guy on the first date. The conversation was flowing, he was older than a typical guy that I would date and I figured “Why not?” It went better than I imagined and definitely built up my confidence for the next time I was in that situation. He listened, asked appropriate questions and gave me the reassurance I needed. At this point I’d say it depends on the night, the person and how the date is going.
Are there lessons you’ve learned during the pandemic?
One of the lessons I have learned during the pandemic is to take the time to think and focus on my challenges. I took out a piece of paper and wrote out what my challenges in life were and how I could overcome them. It took baby steps to get to where I am today. On that piece of paper, I wrote out the qualities that I am looking for in my next relationship and set the goal to be verbally open about my hearing loss. I can’t expect someone to fully open up to me if I don’t fully open up to them.
What advice do you have for teens and young adults with hearing loss?
Do not ignore your friends and family when they try to give you advice about your relationships.
Before going on a date, think about the things you want to say before rushing into it. I always tell people that everyone has their own challenges in life. Mine may be hearing loss and theirs may be something that is brand new to me.
It is important to take the time to know yourself and be the best person you can be.
Email CHC at info@CHChearing.org to share your thoughts and experiences about dating with a hearing loss.