Recently, I had one of those “bad hearing days”. I found an article of mine from February 2015 that reminded me that these days do pass. Here it is, an example of self-help and strict editing.
Ever had one of those days? A day packed with hearing boo-boos and embarrassing moments? A day when communication brings more pain than pleasure? When you are tempted to give up all human interaction?
Does this sound like one of your bad hearing days?
- You’re missing so much that you pull out your hearing aid and look at it, bewildered and betrayed, the way a tennis player might examine their racquet after bad shot. Is there a hole in it? Is something wrong with the equipment?
- You say pardon so often that….well, you just say it so often!
- People’s lips seem to be making words that have no resemblance to what you are hearing—like watching a Japanese movie dubbed in Danish, and your native tongue is Romanian.
- Your tinnitus is raging, an endless parade of bongos and castanets.
- You turn clammy, realizing you’re not carrying any backup batteries. You tense up, trying to hear less in an attempt to minimize battery power.
- You bluff your way through a group conversation. All of a sudden, the laser eyes of the universe are on you, expectantly, but you have zero idea what you’re supposed to respond to.
- Everyone you know seems to have forgotten everything you’ve taught them about good communication. Even your mom, and that hurts.
What can go wrong, will go wrong and at the end of the day, you feel exhausted, abused and mildly frantic.
“Damn this hearing loss,” you curse, fist to the ceiling. “Why couldn’t I have been dealt a different disability?”
While there’s no good answer to this question (especially from the well-meaning relative who says they can relate because their chronically itchy feet makes them crazy), that dramatic fist flourish does feel good because sometimes a body just needs to VENT!
But once the hissy fit has run out of hiss, how do you deal with an epic bad hearing day? A cup of mint tea? Binge-watching on Netflix captioned shows? A brisk two-mile walk?
These can help. They give you time to forget about the hearing day from hell, or think about it more calmly. Why was it so bad? Was it a long string of bad moments, or just one or two paralyzing moments of communication-gone-wrong? And why all in one day?
It could be due to one or both of the evil twins: fatigue and anxiety. If you are tired, or if you’ve been anxious about something else, it’s difficult to focus on what’s being said, leaving you vulnerable to communication breakdowns. And when one communication glitch occurs, it’s not always easy to dump it in the mental garbage bin. The negative emotion may linger, so that when a second glitch occurs, it becomes amplified out of proportion, and the day becomes an increasingly large snowball of frustration.
A third possibility is that some days are just like that. A bad hearing day is as inevitable as a bad hair day, or the day when you get up on the wrong side of the bed (which, the Romans believed, meant your day was going to be unlucky). So while these aren’t foolproof ways to prevent or deal with a bad hearing day, they might help:
- Be technically prepared: make sure hearing technology is as pristine as possible, and have backup batteries within grabbing distance.
- Be well-rested. People with hearing loss use a lot more energy to communicate than do hearing people; our relentless visual focus can be draining.
- Try to separate anxiety about other issues from bad hearing moments. Anxiety can weaken our ability to speechread or be attentive to sound cues. If a communication glitch occurs, recognize the problem, deal with it and move on. Or give yourself a break from the communication environment; try a quick trip to the loo, do some deep breathing, or just find a few moments of peace and quiet.
- Have a couple of tried-and-true throwaway lines on hand, i.e., “I’m having a bad hearing day” or “Well, that wasn’t even close, was it?” or “Why stop at two? Can you repeat that for a third time, please?” If you acknowledge the problem and show comfort with it, others will follow your lead.
Finally—and this may not be of any comfort whatsoever—know that when you’re having a bad hearing day, there are millions of other people out there having an equally bad day, some for the same reason and others for reasons we cannot possibly imagine.
The good news is that tomorrow the sun is going to rise again—most likely on a much better communication day.