During the month of September Healthy Hearing is featuring an author who published a book about hearing loss every Friday! Last Friday we interviewed Katherine Bouton, author of Shouting Won't Help. Tune into Healthy Hearing's Facebook and Twitter every Friday in the month of September for a chance to win a copy of our featured author's book!
Author, mother and public speaker, Karen Putz, started losing her hearing when she was in kindergarten. And despite going through school with partial hearing, she wasn't diagnosed with hearing loss until the age of seven and didn't receive her first hearing aid until she was nine. And even after being fit with a hearing device, Putz didn't have many resources available to her until high school.
"I had speech therapy, but other than that, there were no support services until my sophomore year of high school," Putz said. "I basically drifted through school lipreading whatever I could and studying after school to keep up my grades."
In addition to working overtime to maintain good grades and keep her head above water, Putz admits to being bullied and teased on the bus as a kid. "I experienced teasing on the bus, but because I couldn't hear what was said, I never knew the actual words being used. I just knew I was being teased," she said. "Many, many years later, I received a letter out of the blue from one of the students, apologizing for the teasing. He carried that burden for years. I had long ago forgiven, because life took a great turn after becoming deaf."
It's that positive attitude and determined work ethic that helped drive Putz to write and publish her book, The Passionate Lives of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing People. Putz's book features a collection of 22 stories from deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who detail their journey and path to following the dreams they were passionate about.
"I want to change the paradigm of what it means to be deaf or hard of hearing, to shift it to one of celebration rather than loss," said Putz. "I want deaf and hard of hearing kids and adults to know they can do whatever they're passionate about. They might have to be the "first" to go down a certain path, but it can be done."
In addition to publishing a book and speaking at public events, Putz also has mothered three children while living with her deafness. "There really is no hard part of being a deaf mom, the "deaf" and the "mom" are entwined," she said. "The challenge as a mom is the same challenge my deaf and hard of hearing kids face: the access to communication. I look forward to the day where everything is captioned and all the communication barriers are a thing of the past."
Because Putz's three children are also hard of hearing, she has worked tirelessly to show them there is absolutely nothing they can't achieve if they put their mind to it. Putz wants her children to see their hearing loss as a part of who they are, not all they are, and certainly not something that should hold them back.
"I want deaf and hard of hearing kids and adults to know they can do whatever they're passionate about," said Putz. "They might have to be the "first" to go down a certain path, but it can be done."
Putz plans to continue her Passionate Lives series with a few more additional installments, in addition to a novel in the works. If she could send a message out to the public about individuals with hearing loss it would be for everyone to embrace who they are as an individual, and to be OK with it.
"The one message I'd love for everyone to embrace is from the movie, What a Girl Wants," she said. "It's basically this: Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out? With this approach, we can shift the paradigm from one of "loss" to something to celebrate instead."