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The Transformative Role of Representation and Advocacy in My Hearing Loss Journey

photo of Valecia Adams smiling with a purple background

My name is Valecia Adams. I am Hard of Hearing and use bilateral hearing aids. I'm the proud mother of six children and the even prouder grandmother of nine grandchildren. My husband and I split our time between Milwaukee, WI—where I was born and raised—and sunny California. After a fulfilling government career, I've now retired. These days, I'm deeply involved in running several businesses alongside my husband and advocating for those with hearing loss. In 2020, I founded the non-profit ’Empower and Hear’ which focuses on hearing loss resources, information, and advocacy for the black community.

While I've experienced hearing loss since early childhood, I didn't start using hearing aids until I was 50 years old. The term "hearing loss" first entered my world when I was in the second grade. For years afterward, I underwent numerous screenings but I was never diagnosed. Communication, academics, and processing new verbal information were challenging. The signs of my hearing loss were everywhere, from daily misunderstandings to a distressing incident during a work internship. Deep down, I suspected I might have hearing loss. But, because I hadn't met anyone who looked like me and had hearing loss, accepting this reality was difficult. I was in denial.

By the time I reached my mid-40s, an unsettling episode at my workplace forced me into confronting my hearing situation. This event also spotlighted the fact that I had, over time, slipped into a cycle of isolation and depression. Following this episode, I sought medical advice and was diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss at the age of 45. Yet, acceptance was not immediate. I spent another four years before wearing hearing aids.

Finances posed another challenge. My insurance only paid a fraction of the cost. I still had to manage the remainder. I went on a payment plan, similar to an old-fashioned layaway. This meant I only received my hearing aids once I completed all payments. It took me ten months to pay off my hearing aids, another year had passed. I was now 50 years old, and for the first time in my life, I had hearing aids.

Getting used to hearing aids, and understanding what they can and can’t do, came with its own set of challenges and feelings. It wasn’t easy. But one day everything changed. On that day, for the first time, I met another African American who had hearing loss. It was then that my journey of acceptance truly began. I joined a local hearing loss support group for African Americans. It was there that my thirst for knowledge about hearing loss became strong. We made a dent in raising awareness in the black community. I began to grow as an advocate.

I began to advocate for myself, taking that initial step by asking for work accommodations—a first for me. Yet, a lingering sense of shame remained. I wanted to do more, to connect, share, and learn. So, I began with a Facebook page and then an Instagram account. My outreach grew as I transitioned to videos under 'Hearing Loss Conversations'. My voice was growing stronger and more confident, allowing me to assist even more people. My work was being noticed and by the end of 2021, I was honored with a nomination as a HearStrong Champion. In 2023, I led a workshop at the HLAA annual conference in New Orleans, joined the HLAA-LA chapter Steering Committee and took charge of their Instagram presence. And there's more on the horizon: a book about my hearing loss journey and the launch of VAdams Coaching Services.

My journey with hearing loss transformed when I met someone who looked like me. That moment paved the way for acceptance, care, and healing. It also ignited my passion for advocacy and my role as a mentor to others. There is no greater gift.

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Chelle Wyatt
Chelle Wyatt
Aug 14, 2023

Nice to meet you Valecia. Thanks for sharing your story.

Valecia Adams
Valecia Adams
Aug 24, 2023
Replying to

Thank you!

I love sharing. It's very therapeutic.

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