I used to think if you develop a hearing loss, all you need to do is buy a hearing aid, wear it and you’d hear like anyone else. Was I ever wrong! Hearing loss can be very complicated and aids can’t always work magic.
When I suddenly lost the hearing in my right ear, ‘Smarty pants’ here visited a hearing aid dealer to ‘fix it’. I wasn’t going to annoy family and friends by asking them to repeat over and over again. Not me….
It was a surprise and a disappointment. No hearing aid worked. Apparently it depends on where the damage is. Although several times since I’ve tried again, it has not yet been possible for technology to correct the hearing in that ear. (I’m not giving up. Have you ever known me to do that?)
Once upon a time, I didn’t understand why friends who had aids didn’t
always wear them. Thank goodness I was smart enough to keep my big mouth shut even when I thought people who didn’t use their aids were being inconsiderate. (Bless my mom, who taught me to be kind.)
A sense of humour can always help. My late friend Hans once laughed and said ‘I know that’s not what you said, but what I heard was just hilarious!’
Still, I now realize how difficult dealing with hearing loss can be and it isn’t a joke. My working ear no longer functions as well as it used to. My family, bless them, have so far shown patience and understanding, but some of my hard-of-hearing friends are not so lucky. Lack of empathy from those around us, especially those we love, can be devastating.
Well, you probably already know there is nothing shy about me. Ergo, I am not reluctant to talk about my hearing loss. After all, it isn’t like having committed a murder or something. Nor do I mind asking to be seated where I feel I can hear best. People usually will cooperate if we explain. I’ve learned my willingness to be honest about my hearing loss is a plus.
As part of a class I’m so glad I attended at the Western Institute of
the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (WIDHH), an organization serving our community for 60 years, I learned we hard-of-hearing folk have certain rights and responsibilities. I find it interesting.
We are entitled to respect, acceptance, safety and security — and access to information. It is our responsibility to let others know we are hard-of-hearing; to carry some kind of communication device; give instructions on how best to communicate with us; and plan in advance when we can. We also need to educate ourselves about what help is available in the way of amplifiers, devices and signaling technology, and which of these can best serve us. (If a class such as the one I attended is available where you live, do take advantage of it.)
Which situations are workable? Which are not? Loud background noises can make hearing
impossible for me. Very soft voices are frustrating and sometimes I find myself avoiding friends whom I can’t hear, not because I don’t like them, but because they are so hard to understand it is exhausting. And, accents accompanied by a soft voice are way off the chart.
I like to see your mouth when you are talking to me — it helps a lot. If you face me, it is much easier. Talk to me from the bedroom when I’m in the kitchen and forget it. It’s all sweet nothings. Cover your mouth and I’ll probably ask you to lower your hand so I can see your lips move. I really do want to know what you’re saying.
What does all this mean to family and friends? What can you do to help? Know that we love you. Know we want to see you. We need you in our lives more than ever because hearing loss can be isolating and frightening. We don’t want to be cut off or dismissed, you are more important than ever. Let’s work together to create better understanding for all.