Earlier this month, I was featured on a podcast called Life Athletics, hosted by my friend and fellow Bali resident Nik Wood. We talked about all kinds of topics related to my hearing loss – communication struggles, my relationship, what it was like to put in hearing aids for the first time at age 20.
But most importantly, my conversation with him reminded me that hearing loss is not simply an obstacle in our daily lives. Hearing loss gives us the opportunity to be superhuman. Here are a few of the highlights from our conversation.
Nik: Tell me more about coaching people through using hearing aids and reaching superhuman hearing.
Gianluca: I’m a hearing aid coach, which means that I teach other people who wear hearing aids to live an exceptional life so that hearing loss does not become an obstacle.
My goal is to teach others what took me decades of trial and error to learn. I’ve also done a lot of my own academic research and added it into what I teach so that it doesn’t have to take as long to cope with basic challenges that arise from having hearing loss.
Nik: I love the name – anything superhuman really. How did you come up with that?
Gianluca: I work in the disability space and most of the hearing loss terms are negative. So I wanted a name that brought out the best out of people. The two reasons that make people wear hearing aids are emotional and technological. First, I believe that if you confront your disability properly, it will make you emotionally stronger. Second, people with hearing loss have to wear computers in their ears. Everything is being processed by technology. And I think that is really cool.
Nik: Did you have an experience of “oh, this is what I was missing!”
Gianluca: I did. The first one was when I got hearing aids for the first time. I could immediately hear voices on the other side of the room. Then I went out on the street where everything was so loud. The traffic noise – my brain wasn’t use to processing all of this. And then when I came back inside, I realized that the umbrella made a sound when it closed. I never knew synthetic material made that noise!
Nik: How we identify really matters. For a long time, I identified with my concave chest. How has your mindset shifted over the years?
Gianluca: My actual starting point, before my 20s, was a state of denial. Then when I started wearing HAs, I thought they were invisible. I thought I could just fix this problem and move on. But A) they aren’t invisible and b) they didn’t fix my hearing problem. So I still had to disclose the problem to my boss so that she knew I wasn’t ignoring her – or being weird in meetings. Wearing HAs has put me in the spotlight. I’ve had to confront this disability and face it. And after I shared it for the first time, I realized that the world still went on as it was. And gradually I shared more and it all became easier.
Nik: I love what you’re saying about turning and looking at your disability. Demystifying what had been shameful and taking power back. Even calling it Superhuman Hearing makes it awesome.
Gianluca: I used to think “Why me? Why?” But now I think it’s actually quite lucky that I had the opportunity to face my vulnerability, my ‘problem.’ If you think about the things that I cannot do – okay maybe not a jet fighter or an astronaut – but who cares? I can do 99% of the things that I want to do.
In a way, people with a disability like me have this luck. We have the chance of getting it out there, facing it, and moving on with our lives. This makes us more powerful emotionally and is a blessing in a way.
Nik: At Life Athletics, we look at life like it’s a game or a sport. So, what’s your game and what kind of life athlete are you?
Gianluca: My main mission is to help others. I’m reminded every day of how challenging it is to deal with some of these struggles, and I am always thinking about how I can improve it for myself and other people. My game is really how to make other people with hearing loss hear and live better so that it’s not an obstacle in their lives.
Hope you enjoyed reading some of the highlights from my conversation with Nik. You can find the full audio podcast here. I’m sorry the full transcript isn’t ready yet – it’s coming soon.
What do you think? How does hearing loss make you stronger? Let me know in the comments below.