Am I a Hearing Loss Nut?

Sometimes – just sometimes – when I mention hearing loss to my family or friends, I hear something, very soft, that I’m pretty sure is the sound of an inner groan.

“Oh no, here it comes again. The hearing loss thing.”

It’s not that my nearest and dearest don’t care about my hearing challenges, or don’t want to communicate with me. They have been doing it for years, mostly without complaint or impatience – although one friend will say something and then immediately repeat it, just so she doesn’t have to hear me say pardon.  But as accommodating as they are – and should be – I’m sure that they wish that, just for once, I could go more than five minutes without working ‘hearing loss’ into the conversation.

I can’t help it – I love talking about hearing loss, whether it’s mine, yours or anyone/everyone in the whole wide world. As a major passion in my life, it ranks high, right up there behind family, friends and the cats. Probably even in front of the cats. My thoughts never stray very far, nor for very long from hearing loss. To borrow a phrase from my friend and blog colleague, audiologist Marshall Chasin, my vocation is also my avocation. Hearing loss advocacy is how I earn a living, and how I volunteer.  So, with all this time invested,  I’ve developed a special, although irritating, skill at working the subject into almost any conversation going. You name a topic – including the inevitable politics, weather, death and taxes – and I’ll find a hearing loss angle.

For example, a friend mentions that her golf game is improving – she’s finally getting the feel of the game. I respond with my own golf-feely-feely story of when I was young and walking the course with my golf-playing parents. Suddenly, everyone hit the ground and before I could ask why, I got slugged in the back with a golf ball. I hadn’t heard the golfer yelling ‘fore’ but I sure felt it! (I had some serious words with my mother that night as she kept an ice pack on my spine.) On another occasion, people were discussing the exciting hockey game we’d gone to the night before. I added, “And what about that noise, eh? The arena’s roof was about to blow off. I bet more than a few people left with ringing ears!”  I can stop a political discussion or debate cold with, “You think you’re paying a lot in taxes? Oh puh-leeze! Do you know what a hearing aid costs, not to mention all the batteries it chews up?”

So, back to those inner groans. The boredom is not about having to accommodate my hearing loss, but having to listen to me talk about it – a lot. I’ve seen the eyes of my Hearing Husband glaze over, even roll completely back in his head when I’ve maneuvered yet another conversation around to hearing loss. Sometimes I promise myself to stop being a hearing loss wet blanket. I make up my mind that no matter how well ‘hearing loss’  fits into the current discussion about, say, the lifespan of tarantulas, I’ll bite my tongue to keep it from spitting out the H-L words. But it’s almost impossible – the words seem to form of their own free will. What am I supposed to do – clap my hand over my mouth? Fake a coughing fit? Should I duct-tape my mouth, trapping the words inside and endure the pain as they bang ferociously against the back of my teeth, trying to escape and yell hearing loss, hearing loss, hearing loss…!?

Nah. None of those would work and besides, why should I NOT talk about it?  We have to talk more about hearing loss! The population is getting older. The world is getting louder. Our collective hearing is getting worse. Hearing technology is exploding, but so are the prices. When you have hearing loss, it touches almost every aspect of your life – in both your sleeping and waking hours. I’m just one of millions – tens of millions – of people in North America who have a hearing loss that needs to be respected, addressed and supported. Of course I’m going to talk about it.  We all should.

It might be something simple (although not always easy) like telling someone you have hearing loss. Or it could be standing up at a town hall to advocate for real-time captioning at public events, or writing a letter asking for better government support for hearing aids and cochlear implants. It could be saying words of encouragement to help someone come to grips with their hearing loss – by visiting a hearing care professional or attending a hearing loss support group like HLAA or CHHA, or connecting them to Facebook hearing loss group.

Yes, it is that hearing loss thing again, so groan away, groaners.  Call me a hearing loss nut, if you like; sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.  I, and people like me, are going to talk about hearing loss forever, or at least as long as there’s someone who needs to hear it.  And if you would like to talk about it, too, we’re ready to listen.

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.

13 Comments

  1. Great stuff, as usual. I just spent 3 days in a seminar with 600 folks. It was all about communications, interpersonal relationships, barriers to our success. And they reserved a front row seat for me where I could feel the blood splattering from the intellectual slug fest. God Bless my FM System. 500 feet away they plugged the FM system into their audio system. And on my person my part also had a close up mic so I was scoring in the high 90’s for speech discrimination. Yet, I could Bluetooth with my phone and hear clearly, which just the telecoil did not do for me with the EMI. But oh, all the pieces and remotes that I have to deal with and everything is communicate as to which setting I am in with 1-4 beeps. So feeling like I am flying a high tech fighter plane.

  2. Thanks for making me feel human, Gael! I can’t, and will never, escape hearing loss. Nor do I want to.

    Is it weird that during my days off as an Audiologist, I can’t wait to plunk down and surf all my favourite Deaf and HOH blogs? See what people are talking about this week? What products people are enjoying, or not? Or cruise Pinterest for new HL pinspirations and products?

    And I can totally relate to working hearing loss into every. single. topic. There should be a board game for that. Can you imagine? Identify the link between hearing loss and chinchillas (I can hear you Googling it now!).

    Your articles are more than a blog entry. They are therapy, discussion forums, educating, support, humorous, and most inportantly, necessary.

    I’m thankful you’re a nut.

  3. LOL. This one ‘hit home’ at just the right moment. Twice in the past 4 days at social events with strangers, I’ve managed to sit at a table of mixed couples where one of the wives confessed to having hearing aids during casual conversation. Not because they were jumping at the chance to ‘disclose’, but because I was assertive enough to put my hearing loss up front immediately so my neck craning and repeat question asking could be clarified in advance. Both times, I watched my “hearing ear doll” AKA spousem look to the ceiling with that ‘Oh No, she’s not going there again’ expression. Yet, like you and others Gael, I cannot help it. In both instances the other wives were struggling with hearing issues. Neither of them had ever heard of telecoils or hearing assistive technologies that go beyond hearing instruments. Both have used hearing instruments for years, and both are women in the prime of life. What the H? If anyone needs a reason as to why we must talk more, there it is! I don’t just talk; sometimes I rant!

  4. Keep on talking about hearing loss because there will always be someone who is losing their hearing or knows of a friend or family member in the same boat as we are. I meet with Occupational Therapy students and let them know that their clients along with visible disabilities may have an invisible disability of hearing loss. I suggest a Pocket Talker Ultra or personal assistive listening device with a head set available for the client who has trouble hearing and has not recognized
    it yet or does not want too either.

  5. Great article Gael! I LOVE being an advocate for hearing loss and talking about it to anyone that passes through/by my life. Yeah—on occasion the eyes start rolling and I have to back off…….. a little. But—down in Sarasota, Fl I’m in the majority so they put up with me–for the most part!

  6. Whew! What a relief to know that I am not the only one who is beating that “hearing loss horse” to death. I have seen that eye roll from my hubby too! He actually can do a double eye roll because not only am I able to bring up hearing loss at a moment’s notice but the subject of hearing dogs thrown in for a bonus topic.

    Thank you Gael for your persistence. We do need to keep the topic to the forefront!

  7. “…name a topic– including the inevitable politics, weather, death and taxes – and I’ll find a hearing loss angle…”

    You left out sex, Gael. Dare I insert this hoary old chestnut?

    He and she, climbing into bed for the night. He: “Do you want to go to sleep, honey, or, uhh… what?”

    HoH she: “What?”

  8. Don’t you know that I have plenty of groaners in my own life? I can’t seem to help myself – having to weasel the hearing loss topic or Ménière’s disease topic into everything!

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