Blog helps BR woman cope with hearing loss
Six years ago, LaTonya Miles’ life was filled with her three children’s voices and the soaring songs of Beyonce and Brandy, two of her favorite musicians.
In October of 2006, she started feeling sick, but doctors could not find much wrong — some kind of virus, they told her.
A month after her illness struck, she turned on the television one morning and turned it louder and louder because she could barely make anything out.
“I could still hear it, but it wasn’t clear,” said Miles, 35. “It was like it was underwater and far away.”
Over four days, Miles lost all hearing in her left ear and most in her right ear — just a “pinky nail” of sound, she calls it, remained.
Her new world was marked by new voices — those she knew were different and muddled — and many questions.
Nearly two years after her hearing loss, Miles started writing about her new life. She created an online journal called Life with the Diva, so named because of her hearing aid, the Diva model created by the Widex company.
“I just tried to blog for myself,” Miles said outside a Baton Rouge grocery store while shopping one August morning. “I wasn’t ever thinking that people would read it.”
Today, Miles is positive and outgoing. She appears no different from the other women shopping with their young children in tow — her hearing aid does not peek from beneath her curly hair.
“If you don’t pay attention, you miss the fact that she’s deaf,” said Monique Brazelton, a friend who met Miles after her hearing loss. “She is by no means shy.”
Writing Life with the Diva connected her to others throughout the country who experienced hearing loss and with those born deaf. She could ask questions and receive informed answers.
Before she started writing about her new life, she struggled with adapting.
Instead of working part time, as she did before the virus and before the hearing loss, she learned to adjust. Miles had to cope with her more silent world and live with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder that she was diagnosed with, likely caused by the same virus that caused her deafness. Fibromyalgia also causes loss of appetite and changes in her sleep patterns and mood.
Miles received her the Diva a few months after her hearing loss. She went months with no sound, then had to adapt to the frustrating new audio landscape. In a quiet room with the hearing aid on, she could hear a clock ticking, but all voices would come out like they were “muddled, underwater.”
She also learned to lip read, which she enjoys, she said, because she is “a little nosy.”
“Before I was able to handle it, I had to show my poker face,” she said. “I had to show my children that you can’t crumble no matter how bad it looks on the outside. You have to keep going. Because if you stop and just focus on the negative that is happening, you may not be able to pick yourself back up.”
While she showed her poker face to the world, through her blog she could ask deeply personal questions.
“As my world becomes increasingly silent, I find myself somewhat anxious, sometimes worried, and even scared,” she wrote in June 2011. “I’ve noticed that it is harder & harder to sit through a verbal conversation with my family & friends without becoming completely frustrated.”
Readers who had been in her place replied with suggestions — a hearing dog, for instance — and counseled that she would “mourn” every time she lost sounds that “have added richness to your life.”
“Writing is something I really enjoy,” Miles said. “I express myself better in writing, to me. ... It has helped me lay out my frustrations, too.”
Her frustrations involved fast food restaurants that would not allow her to place drive-through orders in writing and worrying about what types of music her children listen to on the radio.
Miles’ writing also rejoices in her growth as a hearing-impaired woman. She fell in love with closed captioning by watching “Reba,” an old favorite show, in the afternoons. Music began to matter again when she learned to listen using a specialized audio device that adapts to her hearing aid. While the voices still sound “chipmunk-ish, with a mouth full of cotton to some degree,” she wrote in 2010, it’s special. “But it’s music. I love it, and can’t imagine life without it.”
For most of this year Miles has not written on Life with the Diva. She has become more involved in a blog about natural African-American hair — styling without the use of chemical straighteners or additives — at http://www.CurlyHue.com. She and her oldest daughter, Zuri, 14, stopped using chemicals three years ago.
Miles also sells jewelry at private trunk shows for part-time work and helps educate her son Jacob, 12, with his online school work through Louisiana Connections Academy. Her youngest daughter, Kamryn, is 10.
When Miles started losing her hearing, Jacob said it was a “weird time” for their family. They have started learning sign language as a group, which has been difficult.
“I know it will help her more, and I know if I learn it, she’ll be able to understand me,” he said.
Miles worries that her hearing loss might affect her husband, Christopher Miles, more than anyone.
“He likes to sit down and talk, and sometimes if I’m not catching what he’s saying, or it’s going over my head, it can be kind of frustrating,” she said.
As Miles tells her story, any strength she draws upon stems from her faith in God and life lessons from her great-grandmother, Bessie Roddy, who mostly raised her.
“I couldn’t give that credit to anyone,” she said. “How she instilled reliance on faith, letting situations play out and praying about it and keeping moving, don’t let it stop you.”
This obstacle has happened, Miles said, and it hurts her. When the pity parties start, she listens to her great-grandmother’s voice.
Then she picks herself up and says “the pity party’s over; let’s get back to life.”