“It’s been about six years since I’ve fully embraced my hearing loss. I went from being an irritable person that blamed everything else for me being unhappy, to me embracing my hearing loss and getting hearing aids, becoming an active member in my hearing loss support group, to creating my nonprofit to help others.”
Discovering Hearing Loss
When Valecia was in 2nd grade, her teacher suggested she have her hearing tested, but at the time, no action was taken. Valecia participated in her school’s hearing screenings throughout her elementary years, but it was never determined that she suffered hearing loss. Thinking back on it, Valecia sees now how much she struggled in class and how often she had to have teachers repeat her assignments after class. She didn’t realize that she had issues with hearing until her internship during college. She was excited to start her position at a local hospital but quickly realized it would not be easy. She remembers thinking that everyone spoke too fast, mumbled their directions, or covered their mouths. During her first performance review, she was told her performance was not reflecting her excellent grades. Overwhelmed, she blurted out that she couldn’t hear well, but still no action was taken. Because of their poor responses, she decided she would keep her hearing loss a secret because she didn’t want to feel ashamed or embarrassed like they had made her feel at that moment.
Years later, at her desk as a government employee, Valecia noted how quiet the office was, but she saw so much action when she looked up. Her co-workers were chatting and singing, yet she couldn’t hear any of it. She realized how socially isolated she’d become because she couldn’t hear well. Valecia was also passed up for promotions that she met the criteria for because interviews didn’t go as well as she hoped because she missed specific directions. Valecia was tired of being left out and passed over, so she finally decided to get her hearing evaluated. She learned she has high-frequency hearing loss and was fit with her first pair of hearing aids.
Importance of Hearing Better
Before Valecia addressed her hearing loss and sought treatment, she found herself depressed. She desperately wanted to hide her hearing loss even though it wasn’t a secret to those around her. Her relationships and career were suffering. Since she received hearing aids, her life has changed immensely. She no longer feels the need to keep it from others and has noticed that her confidence has soared. In new situations, she isn’t afraid to speak up and let everyone know of any accommodations she may need.
Valecia is grateful for her hearing devices and even refers to them as her best friends. She rarely ever goes anywhere without them. She has learned to appreciate the small sounds that she wouldn’t otherwise be able to hear, like the birds chirping in the morning and comfortably talking on the phone with her grandchildren.
“It’s really the simple things like hearing the water running or your keys drop on the floor. Social outings are also more comfortable for me now.”
Why Valecia is a HearStrong Champion
Valecia is a HearStrong Champion because she is determined to use her story to raise awareness and encourage others to evaluate their hearing. She uses her social media platform to share her journey and positively educate others. She is an active member of the hearing loss community. She is involved in “African Americans with hearing loss-Luv2Hear,” a community/support group in Milwaukee. She is also starting a new business venture, VAdams Coaching Services, to help deaf and hard of hearing women find their life purpose. Valecia even founded her own nonprofit, Empower and Hear Inc. She hopes to provide women living with hearing loss with information and a positive jump start on their hearing loss journey. Her mission is to empower, enrich and build confidence for deaf and hard of hearing women of Southeastern Wisconsin through education, self-advocacy, and access to resources.
Like her role model, Whoopi Goldberg, she wants to inspire others not to let their disability deter them from succeeding. Being ashamed of her hearing loss prevented Valecia from engaging and doing activities she enjoyed. She is now dedicated to doing everything she can to encourage others to embrace their hearing loss and live a purposeful life.