Asking for Access, Accepting Its Absence

Gael Hannan
February 13, 2024

It’s not just about hearing. It’s about being heard.

Almost from the moment I became involved in hearing health advocacy, this has been both my mantra and my byline. It describes my passion for discovering what can make the hearing loss journey smoother, more accessible, less stressful.

And that boils down to having hearing access. We are able to hear, understand and communicate because environments, devices and people are accessible to us, both by design and because we ask for it. Today we can communicate better because the technology and the awareness is there – if we ask for it. We make ourselves heard so that we can hear.

“Nothing with hearing loss comes easy,” says my colleague and coauthor Shari Eberts in a recent article. “But I have learned to trust the process.”

Our job is to learn what we need, learn how to ask for it, and learn how to get it. And even with our regular people – the family, friends, work mates and anyone else in our orbit – getting it is something we fight for every day. They might not remember our needs ‘in the moment’ because, not 10 seconds before, we seemed to be communicating comfortably. But our way of receiving sound and information is different from theirs; they can’t easily judge the instant in which we lose our connection.

So, once again, we remind them. We ask for what we need. And when (not if) we get it, we show our appreciation in a micro-manner…a small smile, perhaps, or a nod, or a relaxed stance that shows our renewed engagement.

But some days, we simply don’t have the energy for it. A bad hearing day due to any of a million reasons. But whatever the cause, we find the ‘access ask’ is too time and energy-consuming so, whether consciously or unconsciously, we let it slide. This can reduce our level of connection to the point where we may disengage completely. We’re just not up for it. It’s also easy to blame our retreat on those insensitive people who, once again, have left us out!

But there are times when we can’t ask for access because it simply isn’t available. In our motorhome Thor, the  Hearing Husband and I are on a 30-day tour of the Baja peninsula in convoy with seven other RVs. Super Bowl found us camped on a beach watching the game in a Mexican beach bar. The crowd was noisy, there was no captioning, and at least half of the commentary was in Spanish. And since I don’t usually like, let alone understand, football, I couldn’t follow the action. And, thanks to the noise, accessible conversation was out of the question.

Driving along the highway in a 26’ motorhome involves noise. Noise from our rig (as it’s called on this trip) and from other vehicles on the road. When it rains, as it did for the first two days, that’s good for another 10 decibels of hissy noise. So, casual chatting isn’t easy as we drive along. There are too many ‘whats’ and ‘pardons’ going back and forth, so we save our communication for the important stuff, such as when one of us sees some wild burros at the side of the road.

The Hearing Husband and I have our communication down to a fine art. That means it’s not perfect but we do understand that it’s not just about hearing, but about being heard. I expect or will ask for access when I need it, and I also accept its occasional absence.



Leave a Reply