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Imposter Syndrome with Hearing Loss

Do people with hearing loss feel imposter syndrome? We do but before we get into that, let’s look at the definition for imposter syndrome. The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary says it is a condition characterized by persistent doubt concerning one’s abilities or accomplishments. It is accompanied by the fear of being exposed as a fraud despite evidence of one’s ongoing success. 

Imposter syndrome fits in with our theme of the month, Hearing Loss & Identity Crisis. Though distinct issues, they often overlap. While we are figuring out who we are with hearing loss, we experience self doubt and seriously doubt what we can achieve. We feel like half the person we were because we can’t communicate like we used to. 

How does imposter syndrome manifest in the lives of people with hearing loss?

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Issues
Dark green and black background. 
White text: Am I hearing or hard of hearing? It's so confusing!
Being unsure of our position can create imposter syndrome.
Picture: white outline of an ear tilted to the lower left corner. Three lines coming out from behind the ear, then several swirled lines going out from there.
circular hearing loss live white logo of 3 leaves

Sensorineural hearing loss creates distorted hearing. We hear certain things well and other things not so well. We hear a lot of noise so how does that equal hearing loss? Hearing the garbage truck rolling down the street is no problem, however, hearing birds and crickets chirping are out. No problem, right? 

Except this affects certain sounds in speech. With a mild high frequency hearing loss, we start having troubles hearing the speech sounds for F, S and TH.  (Take a look at our Sensorineural Visuals HERE to understand this better.) There’s gaps in certain words, especially with higher pitched voices like those of children. 

Are we hearing or hard of hearing? We can say “hearing” because we heard that voice from the other room. Saying we are Hard of Hearing doesn’t fit when we can hear that airplane flying overhead, does it? But, understanding is a whole different thing. Where does that leave us? 

Feeling confused. Doubting ourselves which reduces our confidence. We are caught between hearing and understanding, another topic we explored earlier this year, read HERE. Saying that we have hearing loss makes us feel like an imposter because the typical understanding of hearing loss means a reduction of hearing on all frequencies, a common misconception. Saying we are hearing doesn’t fit either because we are obviously missing certain cues in life. Either way, we feel fake.

Hearing Devices

When hearing loss hits a certain point, we look into hearing devices. This will fix all the issues, we think. The general population tends to believe that our hearing devices, hearing aids and cochlear implants, restore our hearing. This is another huge misconception, even with those closest to us.

Most of the time we don’t learn the limits of hearing devices when we get them. Because of this, we can’t correct unrealistic expectations. When we get our hearing devices, we run into aspects of ableism. We hear things like, “You have selective hearing.” Hearing aids cost somewhere between $3,000 and  $7,000 dollars and we still have trouble understanding what people are saying. “What is wrong with me,” we might ask ourselves again, feeling like an imposter while wearing hearing aids/cochlear implants. 

Dark green and black background.
White text: Hearing aids and cochlear implants do NOT (word NOT in yellow) fix hearing loss. They help but they are not called "hearing miracles" for a reason.
These unrealistic expectations affect confidence and increase self doubt. This contributes to imposter syndrome.
Picture: An outlined figure scratching his head. A dialog bubble that says, "What's wrong with me?"

There can be years of this before we realize it isn’t our fault as hearing devices have limits. Hearing Loss LIVE! talks about these limits all the time. If you’re new, here’s a few quick tips:

  1. Hearing aids and cochlear implants work best within 6 feet.
  2. Though better at filtering out background noise than ever before, it is still an issue. Background noise still overrides speech.
  3. Acoustics affect hearing devices. Mechanical hearing has a hard time processing out reverberation. The harsher the environment (hard surfaces vs soft), the harder it will be to hear.

At some point, we learn from a peer, a support group or an article like this, that hearing devices help but they don’t restore natural hearing abilities.

Lipreading

Lipreading has several misconceptions and unrealistic expectations. The name ‘lipreading’ in and of itself is misleading. Lipreading is not all about the lip shapes, it’s only one of the tools we use for communication. It needs a whole new name. The term ‘speechreading’ doesn’t get it right either because we use logic, body language and more.

We all use lipreading strategies to some degree, unconsciously and out of necessity. If they face us and are within 6 feet, we all hear better. Yet, we are afraid to say we “lipread” because of unrealistic expectations that surround it. There are a few excellent lipreaders out there but most of us hit the average mark of 30% of what is seen. 

Saying, “I lipread” can give us a huge amount of imposter syndrome! Especially when people shut off their voice and use utter nonsense (ableism again). Or when they turn off their voice and use their mouth with exaggerated movements. (Come on people, that’s not natural!)

One way to combat this and restore confidence (achievement) is to say, “I use lipreading strategies with my remaining hearing.” Just so you know, here’s a realistic look at lipreading:

  • It’s not catching every word, it’s catching every 3rd or 4th word. 
  • We tend to recognize common word shapes/patterns that we see all the time. 
  • We fill in holes, within words and often whole words, with context, logic and guesswork. 

There are several more strategies we use. To learn more about realistic lipreading, you can take our classes. We have four classes and each class builds on the other. Strategies are reinforced throughout each class. Two classes in video format to watch as often as you want, when you want. 

Dark green and black background.
White text: Kick imposter syndrome to the curb by learning more about hearing loss, technology and accommodations.
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@hearinglosslive

Our classes give you the information you need to help combat imposter syndrome and  ableism. Find out who you are with hearing loss by attending our free monthly workshops, reading our blogs and listening to our podcasts. Educate yourself. Build your hearing loss confidence and kick imposter syndrome to the curb by educating others.

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