September is Deaf Awareness Month in TT and in commemoration of this, Sunday Newsday reporter JULIEN NEAVES interviewed four members of the hard of hearing community about their struggles and successes. In this entry we meet spa owner Crysande Höchst.
When Crysande Höchst was a child, her parents would beat her because she did not respond when they called and thought she was being disrespectful. It was not until age six, it was discovered that she was not “harden” but hard of hearing.
Sunday Newsday met Höchst at her company Crysande’s Spa & Make Up Studio in Arouca, a business she has had for 13 years.
Originally from Morvant, Höchst said her family did not realise she was hard of hearing until she was about six years old but before that, “I used to get a lot of licks because they thought I was harden.”
When she started school, it was suspected she had a hearing problem and she was sent for a hearing test. It was then discovered that she had perfect hearing in her right ear but no hearing at all in her left ear due to an issue with the nerves–a hearing aid would not assist her. At her business she has to repeatedly tell her employees to talk into her right ear.
“It is exhausting,” she said.
But because it is her business she is able to control her environment. Before then, she worked in the corporate sector as a merchandising and promotions manager and she said it was “quite challenging.”
When she applied for one job the company took issue with her being hard of hearing and she was sent for testing. The doctor commented that it was incredible that she was able to speak properly and achieve so much being so profoundly deaf.
“I didn’t think it was anything unusual. This is just my life.”
At that job they decided to merge the sales and marketing departments and put everyone in an open office of 40 people.
“The worst work environment in my life. Everyone sitting at desks, playing radios on different stations, people walking through. I used to feel so stressed out. I couldn’t cope. That was a nightmare for me.”
Höchst said she always had to problem solve her way through things and in that case she decided that, during the day, she would visit supermarkets and at about 6 pm, go to the office to do work. She did that for two and a half years and no one realised why.
But Höchst found the job monotonous and not intellectually challenging.
She always liked make-up and decided to take a make-up course in the evening. After makeup she learned waxing and she did both part time for two and a half years until she decided to do it full time.
Höchst likes that the job is quiet and she hates noisy things like parties and going to the supermarket so she buys a lot of things online. Going to the mall fills her with “trepidation” because of all the noise.
Höchst said she had a reputation of being a snob because in any public place people would call her and she would not hear them.
She said even some of her staff would think she was ignoring them.
“At least once a day I have to apologise to somebody about that.”
She said people feel very hurt about being “ignored.”
Höchst writes a newspaper beauty column and she said the downside with fame was that people judge you harshly–including strangers–and they would believe the rumours that she was a “real snob” or an arrogant person.
“I hate going out in public. I have almost become a recluse,” she lamented.
She said that she had to ask people to speak more slowly and to look at her when they spoke. She joked that she should wear a sign that says “talk into my right ear.”
Höchst said because of a lack of awareness about the hard of hearing they had to fight for everything and get people to understand or meet them halfway. She said she was so stressed out when she came home from work that she needed about an hour to “decompress.”
Höchst is married and said that, at first, her husband was offended by it but he had come to understand it.
As a child she liked quiet things like reading and she still reads about two books a week and is studying French.
She called for hearing tests for children when they were born.
“Because I was beaten so badly I still have scars. By my father especially. He was really angry. He thought I was ignoring him.”
She said that she had no support system growing up and did not attend any special school. She had to learn to cope while relying on her intelligence.
She believes her condition is a blessing from God as it has made her do very well academically and helped her develop a good memory for conversations and reading.