“What Living With Hearing Loss Has Taught Me”
Born profoundly deaf, Frank Mazzola, Associate Director at Teva US, shares his moving account of how his involvement with the Teva Ability ERG and its culture of sharing stories has led him to reflect on his experience living with a hearing disability.
My mother first noticed my hearing loss, observing that I was only engaging with people I could see. Unfortunately, at the time, hearing healthcare for children was in its infancy, and when my parents first asked for a hearing test, they were told I was too young.
It should be noted that I’m a bit of a paradox. Most people with profound hearing loss from birth have speech impediments; I don’t. This meant those in the educational and medical field believed that I didn’t have a hearing loss but some learning disorder.
School was difficult for me. I was big for my age and was given a seat at the back of the class. Putting a hearing-impaired person in the back of the room when they cannot hear the teacher or follow classroom instructions was not a great combination!
Thankfully, when I was seven, it was decided that I was old enough to be tested. Finally, I was diagnosed and issued my first set of hearing aids. Although hearing aids made a dramatic improvement, it was not a 100% fix.
As I got older, I understood that being hearing impaired led me to favor numbers over literature. That’s why I choose accounting as my career path.
My first real job was a summer internship at JP Morgan Chase. This was my first taste of the “real world.” It was absolute excitement at first, but my excitement quickly turned to dread as I was located in an office surrounded by people noisily talking on their phones. I knew I could not work in such a loud environment. Luckily, after this, I found an auditing job. Auditors usually work in small groups, and most of the required information is provided in writing. This was an ideal fit for me with my hearing disability
I believe that people with “invisible” disabilities tend to take it upon themselves to figure out how to fit in and adapt. Unfortunately, the very fact that these symptoms are invisible can lead to misunderstandings, false perceptions, and judgments.
When I interviewed at Teva over five years ago, I was upfront about my disability. Teva is a very inclusive organization, and everyone from HR to my hiring manager was extremely receptive and accommodating to my requests for assistance. Later, I was pleased to learn that Teva supports multiple ERGs, one of them being the Abilities ERG. The Abilities ERG is an excellent way for Teva employees with disabilities to share their stories and help one another inside and outside our organization.
Reflecting on my own journey, I can see how things have changed over the years. Civil rights laws such as the American Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 have protected individuals with disabilities. This has been a great help to me in removing some of the anxiety I had. In fact, before I got married and had children, one of my biggest concerns was – what if one of my children inherits my disability? As fate would have it, my youngest child also has hearing loss. Yet, with everything I’ve learned, I’ll be able to be there for her every step of the way.
My message to others is this: whatever issues you are dealing with, you are not alone. So feel confident to take the first step to self-identify and share your story.