In these insane times, I’ve noticed an alarming tendency to chunk people into a group, and then assume that they all do and believe the same thing. We blame everyone for every unnerving act that any random person in that group might do.
I’m not referring to politics or vaccine mandates or religion. I’m talking about the dividing line between people who have hearing loss and those who don’t. As a member of the hearing loss community, I find it jarring on social media to read comments by other people with hearing loss: ‘hearing people are idiots’, ‘hearing people just don’t get it’, ‘they treat us like we’re stupid’. These are statements of prejudice, stirring all people who have the ability to hear well into the same bowl of nasty soup.
Many people who don’t have hearing loss don’t get it because it’s not their issue. How can they possibly understand all the nuanced communication challenges faced by a person with hearing loss? Yet, many of them do understand.
And while some people may be jerks, it’s usually not because they can hear well.
And yes, unfortunately, some people assume that because we have hearing loss, we have other challenges as well; when I voted early in the Canadian election, the official wanted to know if I needed help writing in my candidate’s name!
But having made the plea not to assume all hearing people are the same in their attitudes towards us, I admit they do share a few weird tendencies.
Before becoming enlightened about people with hearing loss, they keep communicating in the same, ineffective way. You tell a masked speaker that you can’t understand them, because you read lips. They look at you for a moment – as if they are expecting you to get over this problem you just described. Then they (presumably) repeat what they just said, in exactly the same manner. I now respond, “Still deaf. Still reading lips.” I also offer a solution such as lowering masks if it’s safe.
How about this? They can tell where a sound is coming from – they don’t even have to look! They just know! And they don’t even have to ask – what was that sound? They know that it was this sound, coming from over there. Never fails to amaze me – and they all seem able to do this.
Another jaw-dropping super-power: They can carry on conversations from anywhere in the house! You say something in the kitchen – to yourself, maybe – and then comes the response – from the upstairs bathroom! That’s 15 feet up and 10 feet down a hall, and around a wall or two. To be honest, it’s not that they can hear, understand and respond that gets me, but how is a person supposed to have any privacy around hearing people? Very little escapes their super-ears. A private burp or toot is loudly acknowledged from anywhere – “I heard that!” Damn those hearing people!
Here’s a weird thing you may not know. Most of them respond well to directions and training! A hearing person can’t always guess what our individual needs are. We must tell them. And then tell them again. Then, they get it! True, some don’t, but maybe that’s because they simply don’t like you enough (for any unrelated reason) to put in the effort for good communication.
Another shocker. Almost all of them are not out to make our lives miserable. A mumbler isn’t talking that way simply to irritate you. It’s how they speak; maybe they come from a long line of mumblers. A person who talks without facing you is usually not trying to test your hearing. In the moment, they forget. It happens. Get over it.
The main reason most hearing people don’t understand hearing loss is because they are hearing people! And until they walk a mile in our shoes or need to communicate with us on a grand scale because they’re in love with us, or they are working with us, most hearing people need adequate training – from us – which includes clear information, demonstration of good communication and plenty of reminders. Then they’ll get it.
Aren’t ‘hearing people’ amazing?