Faces Behind the Screen: Lilian
What is it truly like to live without the ability to hear? Sure, we can plug our ears and pretend, but this doesn’t exactly exemplify what it’s like to live in silence every day.
Living in silence, in a world full of sounds, is not the easiest. In her blog, Después del Silencio (After the Silence), Lilian Corona takes us through the realities of living with hearing loss.
Her blog is powerful. It paints an authentic picture of the everyday experiences that she, and many others, live daily.
For Lilian, her blog is an outlet that has given her a voice above the silence and has allowed her to relate to others with hearing loss, as well as educate those who can hear to be more mindful of those who can’t.
When Lilian was 32 years old, she was diagnosed with a genetic sensorineural hearing loss, which results from damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear.
At first, she relied on auxiliary aids, but later she took the plunge to receive a cochlear implant.
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that is meant to replace the function of the inner ear. Essentially the implant sends electronic signals to the brain through the auditory nerve. The brain then translates those signals into sounds.
In an entry, Lilian describes silence like this, “imagine that your ear has an equalizer. When your hearing is normal, all the high, medium, and low sounds are balanced, but when you start to lose your hearing, the high and medium sounds start to get lower. The low sounds also get lower, but not as significantly as the high and medium sounds. These low sounds are actually the ones you can hear most.”
We were fortunate to get a chance to learn more about Lilian’s inspiring story and share it with you today.
Below is a translation of the original interview in Spanish.
Tell us a little bit about when you lost your ability to hear.
- When I was 32 years old, I was diagnosed with genetic sensorineural hearing loss.
There was a period of time, around 10 years, in which my hearing loss was very profound. I would communicate with my auxiliary aids and by reading people’s lips.
Then in September 2015, I had a surgery to get a cochlear implant.
What has been your biggest struggle?
- Ever since I was diagnosed, my doctor gave me the option to get a cochlear implant, but I spent many years balancing the pros and cons.
There are many people who have a cochlear implant with wonderful stories, but there are also others who have had very negative experiences.
One of those people is my sister, who received her cochlear implant when she was 17 years old.
My sister’s experience made me fearful of getting a cochlear implant, and that left me paralyzed for several years.
“My blog is a place where I can communicate everything that I have experienced while living with hearing loss.”
Finally, I decided to take the risk, taking into account all the pros, starting with the fact that I could pay for the implant, the surgery, and the treatment.
After the surgery, I felt even worse than before. To connect the inner part of the implant, they have to disconnect the auditory nerve of the cochlea, so for a month, the silence was absolute. But on the other hand, I felt at ease because I knew that whatever happened, I had taken the risk, and for me, that meant I had won.
Can you describe a time you felt discriminated for being Deaf?
- There was one occasion when a transit officer gave me a sanction. When I asked him to explain the reason for the sanction, he responded facing away from me. When I asked him to please look at me when he talked because I was deaf and needed to read his lips to understand him, he started to laugh and left without giving me an explanation.
It was very frustrating.
What advice would you give people who are also Deaf? What advice would you give to people who aren’t?
- Something that benefits all groups of people is avoiding loud sounds.
Today in restaurants and coffee shops, it’s customary to include ambient music, which on many occasions is played loudly. When this happens, I always ask that they turn the volume down. No one has ever asked me why, so for that reason, I invite people to give it a try.
If the volume of the music is bothering you, ask to have them lower it. I can assure you that nobody will oppose you, as they will realize this is a benefit for everyone.
Tell us more about your blog. Where did you get the inspiration?
When I was submerged in silence, I found within writing a way to communicate. With words, I learned to talk over my hearing loss.
A few years ago, I wrote a couple of articles over hearing loss for two short story publications. It was incredible to receive comments from other people who identified with what I had written.
This was what inspired me.
My blog is a place where I can communicate everything that I have experienced while living with hearing loss, and it’s also a place for other people who have lived or continue to live with what I have, to feel accompanied and to understand that they are not alone. For me, the solitude I felt during my silence was what affected me the most.
What has been the best thing about being Deaf?
- To have received the cochlear implant signified for me a second chance. Every time my brain recognizes a sound, it’s an achievement.
What are your thoughts on technology? Has it been effective? Or have there been occasions where it has been inconvenient?
- Technology is an incredible tool for people with hearing problems, but only when they use it with the mentality for what it is: a tool that helps a lot.
“My doctor has always mentioned that auxiliary aids and cochlear implants function like crutches, and I agree with him completely.”
But, on many occasions, people believe that auxiliary aids and cochlear implants are replacements for the ear. Our ears are incredible and perfect, no technology has been able to replace them.
I think that this would be inconvenient, to think that a device could replace the ear. My doctor has always mentioned that auxiliary aids and cochlear implants function like crutches, and I agree with him completely.
Whats your most common experience when you try to communicate with people who don’t have hearing loss?
- The hearing often fail to understand how hard it is for a person with hearing loss to communicate. Loud ambiances, music at full volume, and too many people talking at the same time are just some of the conditions I face when I want to participate in the hearing world. All these situations lead to ineffective communication, and it’s for these reasons that we, who have problems with hearing, prefer not to participate in social reunions, for fear that we will not be able to keep up with the conversation.
Is there anything else you would like to include?
- There are millions of people in the world with hearing loss. The technology that helps with hearing loss is very effective, but also very costly.
Millions of people could benefit from using auxiliary aids or cochlear implants, but the reality is that few have the economic capacity to obtain these costly treatments.
Governments should intervene to make these treatments more accessible for the people who need them and help prevent hearing-induced hearing loss from adding even more people to the already millions who live with hearing loss.