A few weeks ago, I had a class which looked at why reflection and feedback are beneficial when researching and studying. The class made me think a bit deeper about the concept of ‘reflection’ and why it’s so important in helping us to manage our emotions, learn from experiences and process information. Reflection is defined as ‘consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose’- that is, taking the time to understand something deeply, over a period of time (1). This could be a few minutes to a few weeks. In particular, you might consider your own thoughts, feelings or reasonings around a situation; all in aid of allowing yourself to process information. The class which piqued my interest couldn’t have come at a better time as I approached my one-year anniversary of having hearing aids.
This last year has been challenging in learning to navigate my hearing loss. My hearing loss diagnosis has been a whole complicated array of emotions which I hadn’t considered at the start of my journey. For instance, for over two decades, the world sounded very different to me – and I was used to this. It was more muted; sounds weren’t so sharp, voices were muffled but I unknowingly picked up lipreading as a child. All of a sudden, I was told this wasn’t ‘normal’, and was thrown into a world of sound.
When I first got my hearing aids, I was scared of a clock ticking because I had never heard it before. In December, I heard the crunch of grit that is put on the pavements to make them less slippery under my shoe for the first time, and I’ve found birdsong to be very pretty. It’s probably my favourite sound. Dishwashers and washing machines beep, and I can hear people’s voices so much clearer now. It’s amazing what my hearing aids allow me to access – but it took a lot of adjustment and was so overwhelming at times. This adjustment period was as I was doing all my university assignments and classes, and I don’t think I took the time to reflect on my diagnosis or the process of filtering out sounds and learning new ones.
Then came the realisation of just how quiet and muted ‘my world’ is. How scary it is when I know I should hear the door lock but can’t, when the dishwasher beeps but I don’t hear it. I became almost hyper-aware of how much I couldn’t naturally hear. And that’s terrifying. Even now, I’m learning new sounds, and I don’t know what will happen to my hearing in the future.
All of this, I have had to (fairly recently) process – I didn’t give myself much of a chance last year. It was only during the summer that I started to reflect on my situation, and the impact the diagnosis has had on my mental health. I’m grateful for my hearing aids, and frustrated I was invalidated for so long. I’m excited to hear new sounds, and terrified of the unknown. I’m happy to talk about my hearing loss but so sad that one day, maybe I won’t be able to hear music, familiar voices, the movie being shown at the cinema, or even how I’ll navigate (hopefully) teaching in a university. Maybe I won’t lose my hearing completely at all and I’m worrying over nothing. I don’t know, and I have to be comfortable with not knowing.
It’s through reflection, I’ve been able to navigate my thoughts of this last year and ultimately, feel proud of my journey so far. There’s still a long way to go, but I’ve learned so much about myself and have given myself the space I need to sit with my feelings. I’ve realised it’s okay to have conflicting feelings about something: happy and sad, frustrated and grateful, overwhelmed and at peace. I wish someone had told me that before. So, this is me telling you. Your feelings are valid, and make sure you take the time to reflect on your feelings towards things in your life that might be challenging (or, really positive!).
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