Oh my, stress is riding high these days.
Aside from the politics-craziness, the pandemic keeps going and going, which means people keep wearing and wearing their masks. And for people with hearing loss who venture out in public, that means one stress moment after another as we try to communicate with other mask-wearers.
As if our hearing loss stress wasn’t big enough before this.
This past weekend was an oasis for Canadians as we celebrated our Thanksgiving. The origins of the Canadian version are murky; most of us couldn’t tell you what it signifies but that doesn’t matter – it’s a time to eat, be with family and friends, and be thankful. This year, however, we were urged not to celebrate Thanksgiving in the usual large gatherings, but to keep it small. Which we did, but sadly. The only benefit for those with hearing loss is that fewer people meant less noise.
Hey, there’s the stress again – quick, think! How can we stay sane in this sea of stressed mask wearers?
A few suggestions to try, although some may not hold universal appeal (in which case feel free to think up some of your own).
- Remind yourself that you’re not the only one with a mask problem. The person you’re talking to is not mumbling at you on purpose. We’re all in this together. (Rah-rah stuff can be useful. C’mon, try it.)
- Point to your eyes and say, “Just in case you can’t tell, I’m smiling at you.”
- Or, point to your eyes and say, “This is me not smiling at you.”
- Zoom, zoom, zoom! Use built in captioning to talk to your friends and send them virtual hugs.
- Wear a gorgeous mask. It’s Art for Your Face – the pandemic creative craze!
- Play a one-sided game of “Guess What I’m Saying?”. It’s payback time to all those people who, on learning that we read lips, did their best Jim Carrey impersonation by stretching their mouths into, “What. Am. I. Saying.” So, what you do is speak from behind your mask but not clearly. Repeat the phrase when asked, but just as not-clearly. (No, this isn’t nice, but I had fun thinking it up.)
- Learn to say, without apologizing, “I have severe hearing loss and masks are challenging for me. Could you a/ briefly lower your mask while I stand back, or b/ point to anything that would help me understand you, or c/ let me pull out my phone for my speech-to-text app, or d/ this isn’t working for me, so I am terminating this conversation. Have a nice day and all that.”
- Book a curbside appointment with your hearing care professional to get your hearing device(s) sparkly-clean and high-functioning. And don’t forget to change your wax guards regularly, if your hearing aids use them.
- Take along a human pet – your spouse, good friend, your child – to help translate for you in challenging communication moments. Then reward them.
- Remember that this too shall pass. Who knows what normal will turn out to be, but it will be better than right now.
Be Calm. Be Kind. Be Safe.
This is what Bonnie Henry, the Chief Medical Officer for my province of British Columbia, says to finish every Covid update.