EAR RAGE! (The Aha! Moment)

The Scene: In a salon, a woman sits down in a chair and removes the towel from her wet hair.  She puts her hearing aids back in and looks at herself in the mirror, chatting to the stylist. 

Tell me honestly, do my hearing aids show? I mean, like a lot?

I know I’ve always worn my hair long to cover my big ones – my big hearing aids, I mean. They felt like two huge satellite dishes on the sides of my head, and people would stare, you know? Well, it felt like they were staring; I guess sometimes it was just me being insecure – but other times they were definitely staring.

Even with these new smaller ones, some people aren’t too subtle – and I’m not talking children. I mean adults. Children are more honest. They stare, but then they’ll point and say ‘what’s that?’  But adults – they stare and then pretend they’re not looking. Then I have to pretend I don’t see them looking and let me tell you, all that pretending gets exhausting – and embarrassing.

I don’t know why I get embarrassed; I just do. Or I end up embarrassing Jake, my son.

OK, I get that all his friends were in McDonald’s and no one likes to be singled out at that age – but it was just so noisy and I couldn’t understand the cashier. She got tired of repeating herself, I guess, but did she have to bellow like a bull, “Your COFFEE, ma’am! What do you WANT IN IT!?”

That was not my fault.  And in church yesterday…I mean, how was I supposed to know my battery was going to die? That’s what batteries do, they die – that’s what keeps the battery companies in business. So I take out my hearing aid and once I’ve got the new battery in, the little sucker drops to the floor and rolls under the pew! I had to get on my knees to reach for it.   As I fumbled to get it back in, the feedback was screaming blue murder and I thought I’d die of embarrassment. There was not a lot of ‘love thy neighbor’ going on, I’ll tell you that. Some of those church people weren’t giving me their Sunday-best look.

I always seem to be feeling embarrassed – or left out or ignored. I hate that too. You’d think that friends you’ve had for years would understand that you can’t follow conversations in noisy restaurants. But oh no, they just keep yapping away without me. And you’d think a certain husband could watch the hockey game with the closed captioning on. It does not cover up the puck and even if it did, it’s only for one second out of a season that lasts nine months. Well, not this year, I guess…

You know, I’m just so damn tired of all of that….and I’ve made a decision.

I am just not going to put up with it anymore. I am not going to turn into that old hard of hearing woman who sits in the corner at family events, the one smiling dimly, nodding, saying the wrong things at the wrong time, or just “Eh, what’s that, eh?”

That is not going to be me! I need and want to understand, to be involved in what’s going on. So, I’m gonna start changing how I do things, you know?

Yeah, I’m gonna start wearing my hearing aids – all the time. And if people stare – I’ll just stare right back at ‘em!

And if people don’t face me when we’re talking, I’m gonna spin them around.

I’m going to tell them when I can’t hear them – and they darn well better speak up and not even dare to say, “Oh, never mind, it was nothing.” If they said it once, it must be worth repeating. If not, don’t say it, period.

And from now on when I’m in the TV room, that captioning is ON!

I’m gonna tell people what I need and if someone snaps at me, it’s they who should be embarrassed, not me. I’m not being difficult, I just want to understand – that’s fair, isn’t it?

I’m gonna tell the bank people to look at me, not the computer!  I’ll show you the money – you show me the lips!

I’m gonna tell movie theatres that if they want my business, then give me captioning! And if they keep it up with these loud movies, pretty soon everybody’s going to need the captioning!

I’m gonna tell the church that if they want me to hear the Word, they better say it louder. How about installing a loop?  I mean, let’s loop everything!

I’m gonna tell the flight attendant that I don’t have a clue what the pilot is saying over the PA, so she’ll have to come tell me. Otherwise, I may assume the worst and become hysterical.

I’m gonna tell my boss that if he wants a job well done, I need a phone well amplified!

I’m gonna tell the doctor that I would feel a whole lot better if I could understand what he was saying.

And I’m gonna tell my family – I love you to the moon and back, but that trip would be a whole lot sweeter if you wouldn’t talk to me from another room, or roll your eyes when I say the wrong thing. We’re in this together.

I am NEVER going to sit in that corner.  My ‘ears’ are in and I am looking into the face of the world and I am saying: Bring it on, world, because I’m LISTENING!

Oh my, wow – I really did get going there, didn’t I, dear?  But I meant what I said –  this starts today, now, here.  So cut my hair, darling, and this time cut it short around the ears – because I’ve got nothing to hide.

The End

                            

(Picture courtesy of Shanna Groves, “Show Me Your Ears”)

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

22 Comments

  1. I, too, have had many of those McDonald’s moments. It’s especially bad when they insecure teenager is working there and mumbling throught a set of braces and looking down, etc, etc.

    I tend to panic if it needs to be repeated a third time and then it’s downhill from there. I have to take the bull by the horns I guess and be a little more agressive.

    Great article Gael! :)

  2. loved the blog too many people who clearly need hearinmg aids are hesitent to get them because of what other people think. My boss always laughed cuz ive always told her if i ever lost my hearing i whould want the zebra print ones so i could make a fashion statement and say that yes i have a hearing aid so what

  3. Gael,

    Another awesome post. Thank you. You capture our silent and/or muffled world with specifics– daily interactions and common occurrences that pang us to the quick and hurt. Your observation that all that pretending can be exhausting is oh-so on the mark. But what hit “home” most, was your implore to your family, “We’re in this together.” Beautiful stuff. You and us who are deaf or HOH are in this together too. Thank you for making that connection for me today. I’m listening too. And it heals the empty ache to be reminded now and then that I’m not alone.

  4. What a story you share and obviously you are not alone as evident from so many of the replies. Thanks for sharing with such honesty.

    Neda

  5. PERFECT!!!!!!!!!! I wish that all folks with good hearing could read this.Maybe their attitude for HOH people would change.

  6. Once again Gael, you are right on target. “Show me your ears” reminds me of the 1960s and 1970s when long hair for guys was the “in” thing. So of course, my hearing aid was hidden for years. Over the years I cut my hair shorter and shorter but still managed to “hide” my hearing loss. Finally, one day I came out of the “hearing loss” closet about the time when I began wearing a second hearing aid with more hearing loss. The stress of hiding the hearing loss is so much more than the stress of dealing with the loss out in the open!

  7. Good one Gail. I remember when I first started dating my husband, I used to take mine out and put them in my purse because I didn’t want him to know I wore hearing aids. How crazy is that?!! I could never hear those sweet nothings he whispered in my ear :) Then one day he saw them and wanted to know what they were. He was floored. I sheepeshly told him that I thought he wouldn’t like me if he knew I was flawed. Heck, now I am such an advocate, that everybody knows I’m almost deaf!

  8. I don’t know why everyone wants to hide their hearing aids; I would prefer that they be plainly visible, so that when I ask people to speak up and more slowly, they can see that I’m doing all I can to understand. My friend doesn’t want to wear HA’s; hes afraid people will think he’s old. I keep telling him “it quickly becomes obvious.” I’d much rather be thought HoH & old, than stupid!

  9. Gael
    I
    I’ll always remember when you premiered this rant at the Orillia CHHA conference. I literally had chills running up my spine. I’ve been waiting a lOng time to see/hear it again. Thanks for posting.

  10. We wrote about our ah ha moment a few days ago on facebook ;-) – did you see it?
    Thanks for yours Gael!
    CCACaptioning.org – the place to be for captioning advocacy!
    CaptionMatch.com- new option to make it easier to find a captioner anytime – or offer captioning!
    (Can’t figure out how to copy only a link, so here you go –
    Just had an “ah ha” moment :-). Not sure why it took so long, yet I think I now understand more about “tourism” and why it’s a big topic for people with mobility differences (with huge thanks to my disability friends who are not deaf/hoh). We deaf, deafened and hoh folks get around, and tourism is of interest too, and yet…for millions of us, it’s social (human) conversation that is probably the big one. We get around, yet we miss human conversations we miss group chats in person, we lag behind in everyday communications so vital for healthy living, etc. (not speaking for Deaf using Signing here, there is a culture, language there, and connections). Thinking about millions of deaf, deafened, and hoh who speak, do not sign and don’t choose to. Our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, are speaking folks. English or language of our country is primary. We do however lack a coherent approach to solve communication gaps with others. This seems urgent and more than ever required = to find new approaches, via quality text (speech to text).

    Gael’s writing and presentations are so effective for many reasons, and also using the social media now – we get to converse with her too! :-). Thanks again Gael!

  11. Absolutely wonderful story, one I couldn’t have said any better if I had written myself. Having been born HOH I know very well what it’s like out there dealing with inconsiderate, uncaring people towards us. Kudos to you!!

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