People with hearing loss are just like other people, except that we don’t hear very well or at all. If you don’t have hearing loss, it’s difficult to grasp what it’s really like.
Here a few things that might give you a better insight into our life.
- When we speak loudly, we’re not aware of it. But you, unfortunately, are. We feel badly for anyone who finds us too loud but trust us, we’re not doing it on purpose. We don’t think to ourselves, “Now I think that I shall talk LOUDLY.” It’s just that, because we have hearing loss and because our voice is heading out and away from our heads, we can’t always determine the loudness, or pitch. We might be a bit squeaky too. If our voice comes through louder than your comfort level and if you’re someone we really love, we give you permission to use a discreet hand-lowering that tells us we’re braying like a bull. Please note: we’re usually embarrassed about this, so your compassion is appreciated.
- Not all of us would want our hearing back. Most people with hearing loss would think that’s nuts – they’d give up lattes for a year to get theirs back. But some of us have fought long and hard to live successfully with our particular degree of deafness and to suddenly have some Wizard wave a stick and say, “OK, now you will hear again!”…well, a large part of my identify would feel extinguished. And it’s too late for the right ear – that cochlea has been renovated with a cochlear implant. And I think I would keep saying pardon? It’s a hard habit to break. So, I don’t know how I’d feel, I can only guess. But I can tell you this, those of us who have emerged through the hearing wars, feel a strong sense of identity. This hearing loss is mine – I own it!
- Just because we’re lipreaders, that doesn’t mean we know everything about you just through the close scrutiny we give your face. We’re not that gifted. We have to speechread to help us understand speech, but we mix that information with what we hear you saying. Mind you, we also notice the weird thing you do with your eyes and the way you move your hands kind of flutter when you speak. OK, I guess we are that gifted!
- We wear hearing aids but most of us don’t know how they work, the inside stuff. Perhaps some of us do, but I don’t. But once someone – our audiologist, another person with hearing loss, or the internet – tells us about how they interact with other devices, we are pretty good at connecting them to smartphone technology and other fabulous Bluetooth apps. And I really don’t know how Bluetooth works.
- Hearing people – the ones who don’t have hearing loss – often have trouble following the captioning on TV because it moves so fast. (But I wonder how long it takes those people to read a book!) Peeps like me often have the same problem with people who speak at the speed of sound, while barely moving their lips! But here’s what you should know about seasoned caption-readers like me: we don’t just look at the captions or just read the lips of people onscreen. We keep up a fluid, almost imperceptible movement of our eyes, so that we’re reading captions and lips and watching the action – all at the same time! (Similarly, when we are speechreading, we’re not focusing solely on your lovely mouth; we’re taking in your eyes, eyebrows and overall facial expressions – at the same time.
- This will either surprise you (or surprise you that other people are so uninformed): People with hearing loss don’t need a special license to drive a car. We take our driver’s test in the same way as the hearing people. Having said that, we quickly learn, sometimes the hard way, that we have to be extremely vigilant by using all of our mirrors to watch for things we can’t hear, like sirens, or cars honking at us because we’ve almost cut them off.
- We’re not stupid, although we sometimes do get confused, vacant looks on our face. This usually means that we’ve lost the thread of conversation and we’re trying to bluff our way through it. That’s what’s stupid about us. Bluffing only gets us into trouble and we miss important stuff.
- We don’t care if you see our hearing aids. You might think we’re self-conscious about them, but most of us aren’t. You don’t need to feel sorry for us – or put us up on a pedestal simply for doing what we can to hear better. We’d rather you put your energy into speaking clearly and other good communication practices. While some people prefer not to draw attention to their hearing loss, many of us are happy to talk about it. The hard part is getting us to stop!
I could, in fact, go on and on about what makes people with hearing loss unique. Do you have anything to add to the list?