I have hereditary moderate hearing loss, and have worn hearing aids since the age of 4.
On a day-to-day basis this primarily affects my ability to understand speech and the finer sounds of my general environment, as well as the music I enjoy. I feel that it was a mixed blessing that my hearing loss came so early in life, in that coping with it was something I learned alongside learning everything else in the world so it never felt like coping, or even a loss at all. I guess it’s not possible to lose something you never had.
It did shape - or perhaps ‘enhance’ would be a better word - my personality in a few significant ways, however. Always inclined toward being solitary, I spent much of my childhood immersed in books. Looking back, and knowing myself as I do now, this love of books was very likely magnified by the ease with which I understood them, as opposed to my surroundings. It was a simpler interaction. With people, it sometimes seemed (and still does) little worth the effort it required to understand the conversations around me; I frequently “zoned out” while still appearing to remain engaged. I became an expert at letting my mind wander while allowing the surrounding talk to drift in and out of my train of thought. To actually listen and participate, I learned to pick up on all the ways in which people communicate which are non-verbal. Everyone does this, naturally, but I rely on it much more heavily than most. Conversations are like puzzles I am constantly solving, based on gesture, tone of voice, facial expressions, lip-reading, context, and of course, the words I do hear. Hearing words is often a puzzle in and of itself; I hear the sound and my brain does a quick scan for a match, filling in the ranges I can’t actually pick up.
All of these things combined my love of books and the worlds I find so accessible in them, the solitariness, the ability to let my mind wander while half-paying attention to a narrative, and the logic puzzles that conversations can be for me play a direct role in my working practice. I now literally create worlds from books, and working is a meditative practice for me; I now need to let my mind wander. It allows me to navigate my subconscious, and I don’t believe I would be as good at doing so without the natural sense of disconnection that comes with hearing impairment. And I know that my inclination and ability to piece disparate sources of information together in a comprehensive way, stems from having done so in order to remain in touch with the world all my life.