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Interview w/Amen Khan


In another installment of Hearin' Me, we had the pleasure in speaking with Amen Khan, a current student at Rutgers University. She is majoring in psychology and wants to pursue a career as either a therapist or a counselor! Amen was born with 20-40% moderate hearing loss and uses hearing aids, facial expressions, and lip reading to communicate with others. Enjoy!

What was it like growing up with hearing loss?

"It was formidable for my parents since both my younger brother and I were diagnosed with hearing loss and barely communicated with others. Everyone around my age communicated well and developed social skills while I preferred to stay quiet and be alone. 

In elementary school, we had to take a hearing test where all the students passed and I failed. The school nurse informed my parents about my hearing issues in which they thought I had speech problems. So I was diagnosed really late which in turn affected everything. I was behind in vocabulary levels, had trouble pronouncing words, and lost hearing aids all the time.

In middle school and high school I lost my self-confidence, not only because of my disability, but I also had health complications which kept me out of school and made it harder to make friends. I was too embarrassed to explain to my classmates about my hearing disability.

However, I slowly developed my confidence, advocated for myself, and made good friends. I am now learning about the deaf culture and embracing my disability."

Was there a funny instance that happened to you because of your hearing loss?

"A few months ago, my cousin Sidra and I wanted to make a TikTok based on the 'Never Have I Ever' trend. Neither of us had headphones on, so we tried listening from the speakers on our phone. However, we had a hard time hearing and misheard a lot of the words. There was one question in which I thought the speaker said “Never have I ever... had someone insult my son.” Sidra, who is also  hard of hearing, thought he said something completely different. We kept arguing back and forth until my little sister came in and said “No! You guys got it all wrong. The speaker said never have I ever had someone insult Islam!” Sidra and I just looked at each other embarrassed, but laughed uncontrollably. We’ve made a lot of mistakes in our lives due to our hearing disabilities, however, laughing at those embarrassing moments with Sidra helps me get through tough times. It’s nice to laugh about our little imperfect life."

What is one main struggle you constantly face as a result of being Hard of Hearing? 

"One of the main struggles I face is mispronouncing words.  When I mispronounce them, people don’t understand what I’m trying to say. My siblings would laugh and mock me for mispronouncing certain words and sometimes I take offense and feel insecure.

One of my worst fears in fact, is public speaking. One time, I had a public speaking class and had to present my project. Every time I had a presentation, I constantly got nervous about whether my words are being pronounced correctly. So every night, I would practice my speech to make sure I would not make any mistakes. Sometimes, it's difficult to differentiate words because I’m so used to pronouncing them a certain way. Sometimes I use my parents and little sister as audience members to help."  

Was there a moment in time where it was especially difficult to communicate with someone?

"Recently, I was at the hospital around four in the morning because I was dehydrated. The EMT barged in my door and immediately put me in a wheelchair. I kept asking my mother to lend me my hearing aids but she didn’t understand because I kept getting unconscious. I didn’t have a phone or notebook to write on; everything happened so fast!  While I was in the ambulance, I wasn't allowed any family members with me due to the Coronavirus. I had no clue what the nurses were trying to tell me. I told them that I’m hard of hearing and they were being patient and loud [for me to understand] but it was still difficult for me to comprehend, especially when they were all wearing masks. Then, I reminded them to explain using hand gestures which made it easier for me to understand.

Once I got to the hospital, the doctors quickly came into the room to diagnose my health which didn’t leave time for me to tell them I am hard of hearing (HoH). The doctors repeated so many different questions and I couldn't understand what they were saying.

At first, I noticed some nurses and doctors were giving [me] attitude when I wasn’t answering their questions, or they may have thought that I was ignoring them. I explained to them that I am hard of hearing, and that I can’t hear or understand them over the masks. Most of them were startled and remained patient afterwards. I asked one of the nurses to let me call my parents to drop off my hearing aid, but they weren’t allowing any visitors due to Coronavirus.

Throughout my stay, we tried to communicate as much as we could, especially with patience. It was the most difficult experience I’ve ever faced. Even though I’ve been to hospitals numerous times, without my hearing aids, parental guardians, lips reading or any techniques that help me communicate, it was scary and frustrating. I was all on my own, but, thankfully I made it through."

What advice would you give someone who struggles with hearing?

"I would advise anybody who struggles with hearing to be confident. There will be some days that are difficult and some that are easy, but it's important to prepare and remember to advocate for yourself, let others know about your disability, and be confident. There’s nothing to be ashamed of. [You should] show others that just because you have hearing difficulties, doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything [about it]. We have skills, strength, knowledge and talents, so use it! You know yourself, don’t let others stop you from doing what you believe you can do! Own it."