Invisibly Disabled

By Kelsey McGregor

When you look at me, you wouldn’t guess that I have a disability. To the professional – you might be able to guess that I have one when you observe me when I talk. But most people don’t recognize the signs that I have a disability. I choose to present as able bodied mainly because of how I’m treated when I do tell people about my inability. In dire circumstances I’ll share that I have uni-lateral hearing which just confuses people more and if push comes to shove, I just simply say I’m partially deaf.

Uni-lateral hearing is when you can hear in one ear and not the other. I have an extreme notch of deafness in my right ear but perfect hearing in my left.

If I have to tell people about my disability what happens next is something I loath. Nine times out of 10, people automatically turn up the volume on their speech and slow down. That’s generally not what I need, and it automatically makes me feel like they think that my brain is delayed as well.

I wish people would ask first. What can I do to help you would be the winning ticket if I share with them. Because there are so many nuances to speech and because one ear has full capacity to hear and the other one doesn’t, it usually means I have brought it up because they are talking on my dead ear side, and we just need to shift places so I don’t have to strain to hear them as much. Or they are not enunciating their words well.

Enunciation and well-trained vocals go a long way at least for me. Often, I mishear lyrics to songs because of my hearing. Which is fun if people don’t make fun of me for it. I am slightly sensitive about this.


I’m at an age where I’m contemplating learning sign language but so few people know it. I would have to seek out people who sign to communicate that way.

This pandemic has been a trying time for me. When people communicate with me with masks it takes away my ability to read lips – something that I have picked up along the way because I grew up in a family that has a mumbler in the household.

I hate to admit it but mass mask wearing since COVID19 hit has kind of made me relish in that everyone has had a small lesson in how life tends to go for me regularly with extra strain, and repetition requests to relisten to what was just said.

Has my hearing loss cost me jobs?

Yes, I applied to work in a very noisy sound reliant kitchen at Milestones when I was in my glory days as a server. I was so honoured that my successes as a server had landed me a job at one of the more prestigious restaurants in town. But alas the acoustics were terrible. I didn’t pass my server test because I didn’t hear one order and it screwed over my entire chance.

Am I concerned about aging? 100%.

For many, as they age, they can just crank up the volume level in a hearing aid. For me, I’ve been to specialist after specialist and several of them joke with me and say, “wow, you weren’t kidding. You really do have a notch in your hearing.”

For some reason, my brain doesn’t recognize the sounds that are coming into my right ear so as I age, I will fully rely on my left ear.

invisibly disabled

It’s not all doom and gloom.

One of the positives is that I have a built-in ear plug. When I’m trying to fall asleep and something noisy is happening, if it doesn’t cause vibrations (which I’ll feel) I can fall asleep before you count to three.

So here is my public declaration for those of you who might feel slightly impatient the next time someone says what they need from you if it involves hearing impairment. Try and be patient with them and yourself. The invisible disabilities can be tough to navigate. And maybe don’t slow your speech to turtle speed before you’ve clarified with the person that that is what they need from you.

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