By Eniola Omolara
*This story has been edited for clarity
It all started after I wrote my final HND Mass Communications paper in school. I fell ill suddenly and had to be taken to Lagos where I stayed with my parents. I was in the hospital for a while before I realised that I had lost my hearing. The zeal to be with my peers prompted me to check where I was posted for NYSC, which turned out to be Imo state. My mother was upset and apprehensive, she asked me so many questions about how I would cope with everyone in the camp.
I got through the stress of the first week at the camp in Owerri, but it was hell. One fateful morning, there was an incident: we were all enjoying our early morning sleep when the others heard the blowing of the bugle but I didn’t. They ran into their different platoons while I was fast asleep. Two female soldiers descended on me, they thought I was being disobedient or lying that I did not hear the trumpet and I was thoroughly beaten. I didn’t disclose my shortcomings to everyone except the platoon commander who was observant and reported it to the camp commandant.
I was given a medical report of my status to submit to the camp commandant but I decided against it as I believed I could weather the storm. My platoon commander was sympathetic towards me when I explained my experience with the female soldiers to him and asked me to rest throughout the morning paramilitary exercises. After the lunch break, I walked straight to the camp commandant’s office who got furious and demanded that the culprits be brought to book. He asked me to identify the culprits but I decided not to and that was the end of that. I became friendly with the female soldiers who showed their gratefulness by paying me several visits till the end of the camp.
Another memorable but sad incident occured when I was almost knocked down by a car at Bolade Oshodi in Lagos which I didn’t hear as it zoomed past me. Now, I always make sure to face on-coming vehicles and look behind me whenever I walk on the streets. I often walk with someone else as it makes me feel safer and prevents avoidable incidents.
Being hearing impaired has also impacted my experience as a mother. When I had my first child, I always wondered how I would cope with my child crying, especially on the nights when I would be fast asleep. The cries always attracted the attention of neighbours and many embarrassing questions would await me in the morning. I found that the remedy was to lay my hands on my baby while I was asleep so that I would feel the movement or vibration of the bed whenever they wanted to cry or felt uncomfortable.
Even with people in general, I’ve learnt that I need to move closer to anyone who is speaking to me and lip-read him or her. I searched for a job, all to no avail so I ended up being a petty trader and I initially found it difficult to relate perfectly with impatient customers. Some customers would shout when they see that I don’t understand what they’re saying or asking of me. Yet, I haven’t given up and presently, I’m able to maintain eye-contact and lip-read anyone perfectly.
The latest incident I experienced was a total theatre of the absurd in a big market in Ibadan. I drove down to purchase a few cartons of biscuits and beverages and my car was chained down because I parked wrongly. By the time I got back to where my car was parked, the Local Government Road Maintenance officials told me they had been waiting for almost an hour, searching for the owner of the car. I explained that I did not hear the call when other people rushed to retrieve their vehicles. I cried profusely and people gathered to beg the officials on my behalf. Unfortunately, my car was towed but by the grace of God, I was favoured and it was released the next day.
Despite everything I’ve experienced, I never allow my hearing impairment to rob me of my joy and happiness. I’m a member of the choir at church, I sing and dance and I always make a habit to learn new songs and viral dances with my children.