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.