Taking a Moment to Change a Life

Gael Hannan
October 24, 2023

If you had only 5 minutes to make a difference in the life of a stranger, would you attempt it?

If, in an unexpected moment, a person whose daily world is unconnected to yours, is positioned to embrace your words, because they sense what you’re offering is something they need—would you say something?

Five minutes, a fleeting blip in a person’s lifespan, that’s all the time you’ve got.

Once, at a highway travel rest stop, I was drying my hands alongside another woman who was part of a bus tour. Did she wear hearing aids? I don’t remember but something signalled her frustration with hearing loss. Then she left to rejoin her group. I said nothing to her but I’ve since wondered if, given another chance, I should have. Even knowing her bus was leaving in 5 minutes, I might say, “Do you have a moment to chat?”

But how would I compress a lifetime of learning to live with hearing loss into a few seconds? I only have one shot with this stranger and the bus’s running motor reminds me how little time we have, so I would try:

I have hearing loss too and here’s what has worked for me. Maybe it will work for you, too.

Admit It.  Be honest about your hearing loss. Don’t try to hide it. Your secret grieving for the way things is natural but you can move on. If you don’t admit it to yourself and others, it won’t get better. Being open about your difficulties may not be as hard as you think because you’re not alone.

Get Help. It’s available and waiting. Learn about your hearing loss. Visit a hearing care professional. Reach out to consumer support groups for help and you will know you’re not alone.

Use Technology and Other Strategies.   Hearing aids may give you back many of the sounds and much of the understanding that seem to have disappeared from your life.  And many strategies don’t need a plug or a battery, like learning how to chat, just as we’re doing now at this picnic bench, facing each other. I know what you’re going through, so  you are not alone.

Tell People What You Need. They won’t always know and they definitely won’t always remember. Explain what you need in order to hear better, tell your friends and family what they need to do – because if you can’t connect with them, you will be alone.

Communicate. This is a fundamental need in our lives. Like air, water, and food—we need communication to be human.  You’ve lost some hearing but you will regain connection through communication. Life will be better. You’re not alone.

It was nice to meet you, have a good trip.

Although those aren’t the exact words and there were too many of them because I’d be rushing to get them out. But it’s the gist of what I hope I’d say—if I had taken the opportunity.

Every day, everywhere, there are people who turn just 5 minutes of their life into a powerful connection with a stranger – and perhaps today, a person in pain over the loss of hearing and communication in their life will know, by the sixth minute, that help is waiting and that they are not alone.


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