Michelle “Chelle” Harris
Hello, Chelle here!
I’m somewhat of a Jack(ie)-of-all-Trades as I wear so many hats that’s it hard to sum myself up in a sentence or two. I’m a writer, graphic/web designer and marketing strategist at Shel-Shok, LLC a marketing agency that I founded in 2006. I also started an environmental education organization (I heart bugs!) called Green Matter, Limited in 2010. In addition, I have an early background in medicine (I had aspirations to be a surgeon). I have multiple degrees including two master’s degrees in Marketing & Communications and Management & Finance as well as a bachelor’s degree in Pre-Med Biology. Currently, I’m a Ph.D. candidate conducting dissertation research on biomimicry, entrepreneurship, venture capital funding and decision-making. As you can see, my education and career evolved from a lot of unanticipated twists, turns and detours. The same goes for my experience of being born with a normal level of hearing to being told that I’m severely hearing impaired. No matter what, I really love to write and that can be done whether one can hear well or not. So… what better place to share the ups, downs and nuances of hearing loss than this blog!
First Signs of Hearing Loss (early 1990’s)
I first started noticing that I was losing my hearing in both ears when I was in my early 20s, which was around the year 1993. It was brought to my attention when I worked as a lifeguard at a city pool in Bryan, Ohio. One of my co-workers said she was calling and calling my name but I didn’t respond. I’ll never forget telling her that I had no idea she was calling me. At that time, I thought nothing of it, but in retrospect, it was one of the first signs that I was losing my hearing.
Sinus Infection or Genetics?
I had a lot of sinus problems during my second pregnancy, and I always thought that contributed to my hearing difficulties. However, the doctors say that it could be a genetic condition. Although I don’t have any relatives with a history of hearing impairments other than that which you find normal in old age, my youngest son does have a similar high-frequency hearing loss, but his is mild whereas mine has become severe over the years. During later years, I’d find that my oldest son had a similar hearing loss that almost prevented him from joining the City of Columbus Police Department.
Hearing Aid Frustration to No End (early 2000’s)
After a decade or so later, around the year 2000, I went back to the doctor to try to find some kind of remedy for my hearing loss. It was determined that I had nerve cell damage in my ear that was irreversible. The only option at this point was hearing aids. I received financial assistance through a state program along with special accommodations to help me at work, which included a phone amplifier. I had hearing aids for a long time but eventually stopped wearing them because they didn’t help me to understand speech. When wearing them, I could pick up various sounds that I couldn’t hear otherwise like cell phones ringing or coins dropping on the floor. Unfortunately, I continued to struggle in everyday life to understand people when they’re talking. It affected trying to communicate with friends, family and coworkers. I felt like the hearing aids made it harder to understand people, so I simply relied on lip-reading, emails and closed-captioning whenever possible.
How I Became Eligible for a Cochlear Implant (2011)
In 2010, I tried out a new pair of state-of-the-art hearing aids. Unlike the ones that I had before, these were digital transposition hearing aids designed to change the high-frequency sounds that I can’t hear to low-frequency sounds that I can. After trying them for a month, I was disheartened to find that they didn’t help me any better than my older pair. I was frustrated with not being able to understand conversations in many situations as I relied heavily on a combination of hearing and lip-reading. And even at close range or one-on-one, I still found it hard to communicate. After going through months of tests, I was finally approved to receive a cochlear implant. My health insurance provider gave the go-ahead and my surgery was scheduled for March 30, 2011.
The Makings of the “Deaf Be Not Proud” Blog
“Throughout the years, I sought various ways to deal with my hearing loss in addition to hearing aids. From closed-captioning my TV to using Internet-based phone relay services, these things have helped but they aren’t always available or effective. Having researched many things and while in the process of getting a cochlear implant, I decided to start a website to provide resources in one spot and chronicle my experiences. In addition, with the stigma often associated with hearing loss, it was my aim to support the deaf culture and become an advocate to help make living in a hearing world easier. Initially, not sure what to name my blog, I settled on a name taken from the poem that was written as a satire, pun or play on words of the English poet John Donne’s sonnet called Death Be Not Proud.
Thanks for checking out my blog!
Michelle “Chelle” Harris
P.S. This is a newly-created resurrection of the original blog that I started back in 2010, which featured a purple and green logo and color scheme. Let’s see where this new website takes us…