Where’s Your Sense of Hearing Loss Humor?

People with hearing loss – are you finding things funny during the pandemic?  I don’t mean the pandemic itself, just things that may not be funny in normal times, or wouldn’t even happen in normal times. But now, in this insane world, some things just tickle us into a smile.

“Underwear as Masks”

For example, what do some people look like when they’re wearing masks? Seriously. I know we’re not supposed to laugh at things like that, but since we can’t understand what they’re saying from behind their masks, we should be allowed some enjoyment at what’s on top of their face, don’t you think? Some masks are works of art, while others appear to spring from twisted minds.  

And speaking of masks, how many times have you received excited emails from your hearing friends about those clear masks? I swear I got at least 20!  And I always send a polite response saying thank you for thinking of me, but I need other people to wear them so I can understand what they’re saying. Do you think I was too rude in my response?

I cracked myself up on my first shopping expedition with a mask. You can read about it here, but in a nutshell, I was so intimidated by the masked checkout clerk standing behind a plexiglass shield strong enough to stop bullets, that I could not get what she was saying. And because I couldn’t understand her, I somehow assumed she couldn’t understand me behind my mask, so I bowed from the waist. My humiliation at doing such a stupid thing eventually turned into guffaws.

What else is amusing? Personally, I get a kick out of how people react if you, by mistake, enter two inches into their 6-foot no-fly zone. They do a backward vibration move, as if  burned, and they flash you a warning scowl. Their message requires no words – get outta my space!” Sorry,” you mutter, thinking how some people are maybe carrying things just a bit too far? Then, the person behind you gets too close, and you give them the same, silent freak-out. To help prevent in-store fighting, the stores have taped interesting patterns on the floor to make it easier for people like me who can’t really tell how far 6 feet actually is.

And don’t get me started on the one-way grocery aisles! We were taught the rules of the grocery aisle as children and it’s very difficult to retrain yourself. If you want something in the next aisle over, you have to turn out of your aisle, go past the one you want, go all the way down the next one, and take a tight turn and  – finally! – you’re hopefully where you want to be.

My solution, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this: if I’m at the end of a wrong-way aisle and what I really want is not too far down, I turn around and walk backwards, like a reverse moonwalk. It works! No one can give me the stink-eye, because my cart is pointed in the right direction. Can you prove to the store manager that I did the entire aisle backwards, like, did you film me? Worry about your own grocery list and leave me alone.

After the first few weeks of hiding in our houses, our neighbours decided to hold driveway parties on Friday nights for cocktails. We all sit far apart, in a circle, and bring our own chairs, drinks, glasses and snacks. My problem is trying to understand what people are saying from way over there,  20 feet away. As things have eased a bit – there are no Covid cases on Vancouver Island where we live – we have made the circle progressively smaller. My communication is still challenged, with my head swiveling at high speed to see who’s talking when, and what they said before the person over there answers. Sometimes I just give up and ask the Hearing Husband to help me out. I’m just glad to be around people, I don’t actually need to understand their every word.

Although it has nothing to do with hearing loss, what I call “corona-hair” has been fabulous for laughs. Women whose roots were growing out at the speed of sound were panic stricken because they’ve never colored their own hair. Didn’t matter anyway, because hair dye was flying off the shelves, along with electric razors. The Hearing Husband got his hair cut by his friend, who needed an extra long extension cord to perform the operation in the backyard. Didn’t turn out too badly – just the odd bald spot – and I got a week’s worth of laughs out of it.

In the midst of pandemic agony, every laugh is precious.

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.

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