restricted access How I Lost My Hearing
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How I Lost My Hearing

I was born as a healthy and strong hearing person, but I became deaf through a result of painful and traumatic cancer treatments. I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor called Germinoma in 2003. I went through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. I was good for one and a half years. However, in 2005 when I turned 12 my cancer relapsed. My doctors told me and my family that I had to undergo a much stronger treatment plan called a Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT). One of the possible side effects to this treatment was hearing loss. I unfortunately received this devastating side effect.

I still remember the day that I lost my hearing. Before going to sleep that night, I received a dose of chemo. Waking up the next morning, something was terribly wrong. I couldn’t hear anything! I felt as if I were wearing earplugs. I called for my mother and I told her the alarming news, but as she was speaking back to me, I strained to hear her voice. All I saw were her lips moving. My doctors made arrangements for me to get my hearing tested with an audiologist.

As the days that passed, I went through a deep depression. My doctors and my family tried different ways to communicate with me. They used note pads or white boards and wrote down what they wanted to say to me. As my hearing lessened, my other senses kicked in. I read body language and expressions. I learned to read lips. It was a little over a month before I got my hearing aids.

Going back to school was very difficult, but my hearing loss, in itself, wasn’t as traumatic as the refusal to accept my new life. I spent the next four years trying to be hearing—trying to fix myself— trying to be what I once was. I always strained my ears trying to listen to my teachers. I tried fitting in with my friends, trying to keep up with their conversations, but it was no use. I couldn’t hear a thing; I was lost and confused.

However, during my eighth grade year, I was given the choice to transfer to a different school. It was a mainstream school that had a DHH (Deaf and Hard of Hearing) program. It was a scary transition going to a new school, not knowing anybody. I hesitated and did not want to go at first, but eventually I got over my fears.

When I transferred over to the other middle school, I still felt lost. I was still trying to be a hearing student. I only knew how to be auditory learner. I couldn’t focus because I wasn’t able to hear my teachers. I was new at sign language, so I couldn’t understand any of my interpreters. I had frequent meltdowns every week.

I felt like I didn’t fit into the deaf world or the hearing world. I couldn’t understand either one. I was always misunderstanding my hearing friends, and I wasn’t able to understand my deaf peers because I didn’t fully know their language. I had low self–esteem and I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.

I had to learn to become a visual learner. I was given the use of a Frequency Modulated (FM) system. The FM system is an assistive listening device worn by the speaker to amplify his/her voice and transmit it directly to the listener’s ears via an electronic receiver and special earphones or the listener’s own hearing aids. I also had an interpreter and closed captions when needed.

My DHH teacher Mr. H, who was my greatest mentor and role model, set me up with an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) that required that I had to have my homework written down instead being verbally told. I was allowed to have more time on tests when needed, and a note taker for lectures. All of these arrangements really helped me through my new “deaf world.”

My mother and I took Sign Language classes at Sacramento State University where Mr. H also taught...