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How ASL classes at CHS bridged the communication gap – and changed my life

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By Sara Jane Kiley-McDonald

I started having issues with my hearing early in my adult life, because of sinus complications. Because of my hearing loss, I would often miss part of what people would say and have to piece together what I’d heard like a puzzle.

I learned how to lipread early in my hearing loss journey, which helped me get by for many years. But by the end of the day, I would be exhausted. Just following normal conversation took such focus. Is that person talking to me? What did I miss? How should I respond when I didnʼt hear what was said? What is that person’s body language telling me? Should I ask them to repeat themselves again?

This was my routine for more than 15 years.

However, during the last six years, my hearing declined rapidly. I wasnʼt just missing what strangers were saying now: I was completely missing what my own husband, nephew, and other family members were saying. I felt a sense of loneliness like I’d never felt before. Even with my loving and supportive family at my side, my outside world was becoming smaller and smaller. I was lost.

My work life was drastically affected as well. The successful business I owned and worked hard to build up was quickly declining because of my hearing loss. I would stay home instead of socializing because I was afraid I would just miss what people were saying to me. Even with hearing aids, my world sounded muffled, like being underwater. I couldn’t make sense of spoken words.

My hearing loss was affecting every aspect of my life. I knew I had to do something and do it quickly. I had to get the support my family and I needed.

Without realizing it, I was about to make a lifechanging decision: I contacted the Canadian Hearing Society! I was blown away by the immediate support I received from CHS and its employees. With their assistance, I received employment support and my family and I were signed up for American Sign Language (ASL) classes.

After a few short ASL lessons, my family was able to sign with me – we could finally communicate again! I found myself in tears; tears of pure joy and gratitude towards CHS.

Communication is such a key aspect of all our relationships – and one we often take for granted. Without communication, we can become lonely and isolated, and those feelings can be overpowering.

CHS has bridged the communication gap for me and my family. We are forever grateful for all their kindness, compassion and overwhelming support.

The positive impact that CHS has had in my life is profound. In a world where I once felt cut off and isolated, I now have hope and support. Doors are now opening for me, my husband and family, all because of the blessings we have received from CHS. They are truly a lifechanging organization!

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