You Gotta Laugh About Hearing Loss

Dear Shannon,

How are you doing?  It was great seeing you again at last year’s Hearing Loss Association of America convention! 

I’ve never laughed so hard like when we shared all those hearing loss stories in the lounge – my stomach laugh-muscles were sure sore the next morning. Remember that guy who didn’t hear his morning wake-up call – but woke up when a security guard pulled his toe to see if he was alive. He roared awake and the guys standing around his bed jumped two feet in the air.  But hey, what was the hard of hearing guy thinking that he could actually hear a hotel wake up call?

And then the stories of hearing people not getting what it means to have hearing loss. I know our stories made them seem kind of, like, duh. But when you think of the embarrassment we’ve gone through with this hearing loss thing – not getting jokes, asking for repeats over and over – it did feel good for a little payback time. Oh, here I go laughing again.

Next time I see you, I’ll have a couple of good ones to tell the group. Like last week when I flew to Des Moines to visit my sister and her family. That’s four hours of traveling on two flights which always made me nervous before when I had to travel without Jim (he’s my husband, remember?). He normally does all the important hearing stuff on our trips. But this time, I said to myself, “Andrea, you just march up to that counter and tell them you’ve got hearing loss and can’t hear the boarding announcements.” 

You know what, Shannon? I did it! But I must have spoken quietly, because the staff asked me what I said. I repeated, “I have hearing loss” and boy, did we both laugh! She said to me, in quite a loud voice I must say, “WOULD YOU LIKE TO PRE-BOARD?”  Shannon, I swear she’d hardly finished before I blurted, “OK. That sounds good.”  (Good? It was fabulous!)

The airport have many chairs,clean and tidy

Then she said, “WHY DON’T YOU SIT IN THAT SEAT THERE AND I’LL COME AND GET YOU WHEN IT’S TIME.”  Her foghorn voice made people look at me as I sat down in the ‘disabled’ seat marked by a wheel chair. I felt a bit guilty, even though I hadn’t lied or anything. I decided not to call Jim on my cellphone like usual, because people would think…if she’s deaf, how can she talk on the phone? Why did I worry about other people?  Anyway, I texted Jim instead. He hates texting because he’s not good with his thumbs. He punches out the letters with his pointer finger – hard, like it’s a touch-tone and it probably took him forever: “Why dnt u call me?”  “Because people here think I’m deaf and it would look odd if I’m using the phone.” “U R odd, Andrea.  Xoxo.”  Oh, that Jim!

Then the staff person came and knelt beside me and said, “Is there anything I should be doing for you?  Can you walk to the plane? Do you need a Braille card?”

Well, Shannon, I was in shock, I mean really! I just looked at her – long enough that she probably thought I didn’t understand, but then I said nicely, because really, she was trying to be helpful, “No thanks, I walk fine. And about the Braille, I don’t think it would help, my problem is hearing.”  She went all pink and said, “Oh I can’t believe I asked you that! Bwahahah.” “I can’t believe you did, either.” No, I didn’t say that, but I sure thought it.  “No problem, it happens all the time.” And I bet it does.

So when I boarded – I was first on, even before the elderly guy in a wheelchair and the mom with kids – I said to the flight attendant, “I’m in 21D and don’t hear well, especially the announcements, so if you could come and tell me anything I need to know, that would be great.” She smiled and said, “Absolutely.”

I never saw her again, even when there were announcements. Which must have been important, otherwise why would the captain make them? I asked the man next to me, but he said he hadn’t been listening. One announcement was obviously about turbulence because the plane started jumping around. It would have been good to know that in advance, seeing as I’d just put a glass of wine to my lips. I spend the rest of the trip smelling “wine-y” with a red blotch on my sweater.

Actually, I did see the flight attendant once more. Before landing, she crouched beside me and asked, “Would you like to wait to disembark until everyone else is off?”  This time I could barely cough out a ‘no thanks’.  I thought I’d seen and heard everything – until I got off the plane.

They were waiting for me with a wheelchair.

 

Love, Andrea ♥ ♥

PS: You just gotta laugh about hearing loss, sometimes, eh?

 

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a sought-after speaker for her humorous and insightful performances about hearing loss. Unheard Voices and EarRage! are ground-breaking solo shows that illuminate the profound impact of hearing loss on a person’s life and relationships, and which Gael has presented to appreciative audiences around Canada, the United States and New Zealand. A DVD/video version of Unheard Voices is now available. She has received awards for her work, including the Consumer Advocacy Award from the Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists. Gael lives with her husband and son in Toronto.

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Melinda

I always do the “tell them at the gate first thing” trick–makes it all so easy! They always go the extra mile to make sure I’m accommodated I, too, am usually the first one on the plane with no fighting against other people’s outrageously large “carry-ons”. I confess I still have trouble with the ‘talking’ about food and drink etc. on board, but the choices are usually few, in any case. Yes, good idea to tell the cabin attendants first thing when boarding–might make the food talk easier. Thanks for this good, and amusing account!

Grant

I’ve done the “disabilities” thing with flights. They don’t always offer to pre-board, but it’s nice when they do. Mainly I just want to know when it’s my turn to board. I noticed that some airlines now have a visible messaging system that shows which rows are boarding. That’s a nice touch because I’m sure even some of the regular folk can’t hear the announcements.

Renee Iseli

That’s true! Once someone of the ground personelle talked so fast, even people with regular hearing had trouble to understand it. When I passed this young man at boarding, I told him that. He didnt seem to care and told me, they didn‘t had much time for the announcements, whereupon I answered him: if you actually want the people to understand what you say in the announcements, you really should adjust your rate of speech. He was not impressed.

Renee Iseli

Oh my, I do fly a couple of times a year on my own and must admit I never told anyone I‘m hard of hearing because I usually manage quite well, but after reading this, I am very tempted to do so next time and see what happens…

Shona

Just the tonic. I felt a bit sorry for myself these last few days so this cheered me up and reminded me not to take it all so seriously especially the bit about using the phone. I often feel like I’m a fraud when now and again I actually hear stuff but really it takes heaps of concentration to get the gist of any conversation.

Gael Hannan

Shona, I have ‘bad hearing days’ all the time. Days when my philosophy of one foot in front of the other turns into I just want to kick something. I hope you have resources to help you with better communication strategies. If not, feel free to contact me.

Cindy Gordon

I’ve had everyone one of those things happen to be on past flights.
They never learn!!!