Let’s Not DO This, People with Hearing Loss!

A friend of mine posted the above meme this morning, which was adapted from an article by Adam Grant for the New York Times.

It stopped me cold.

Languishing: the void between depression and flourishing – the absence of well-being.

Exactly! This is exactly how so many of us are feeling these days. It’s been more than a year since the pandemic started causing pandemonium in our lives – our work, lifestyles, health and, for people with hearing loss (PWHL), our communication.

The first time we came face to face with a mask-wearing stranger was a moment of devastating awareness. This was not good. We were in big trouble. We had run hard into a cement communication wall.

Many PWHL had worked long and arduously to cultivate a healthy attitude about their hearing issues, or at least be confident in dealing with it.

Kaboom! Now, all it took was a pair of lips moving behind a mask to throw us back to a time of struggling, when we may have had to depend on a partner or friend to translate. Now, defeated by the impossible task of understanding the other person, we sometimes have given up and walked away. Not a good feeling.

At the same time, a gigantic new crop of people with hearing sprang up. Seeing that same pair of invisible lips behind that same mask, they realized, “OMG! I have some hearing loss – I can’t understand what anybody’s saying!”

A year later, our numbers have swelled but has masked communication improved? It depends on the individual, but I’m going to go with no, it hasn’t improved all that much.

I realize that I minimize chitchat with masked strangers. In stores, I try to avoid any complicated discussions with staff. If I need a Starbucks latte, I try to remember to have my speech-to-text app open, but it has the drawback of picking up all sorts of extra dialogue:

“I’ll have a latte, please.”

“Sure, what size latte would you like?”

“Scuse me, could I have the keys to the washroom?”

“Medium-size, please.

“ICED CAPPUCINO READY FOR, UH, JOHN!”

“OK, Gael, is that all for you today?

“Yes, th…

“Next in line!”

Clear masks and face shields are not yet the norm. And if I want you to wear a clear mask, I will have to give you one, but it’s not in my budget to walk around with a bag full of $20 clear masks to hand out.

Regardless of regional rules on staying at home (and I don’t want to debate their rightness or wrongness), we are staying at home more. We’re zooming more – which at least allows us to hear and speechread better. But we are also languishing – fear and worry, separation from people and politics weigh us down. We don’t feel as healthy as we did a year ago. And we blame a lot of people for that.

Let’s not do this, people with hearing loss! The blame game sabotages our wellbeing, so let’s do this instead: let’s shift our focus.

Fight the feelings of ‘blah’ by practicing deliberate positivity. Get off that zoom screen or TV and get some exercise. Continue to advocate for the needs of people with hearing loss. And when you’re out there wearing your mask, practice your smize, Tyra Banks’ brilliant term for ‘smiling with your eyes’.

I have only recently recovered from having Covid. I miss my family like crazy and I’d pay a small fortune to hug my grandkids – but I can’t. What I can do is hug the Hearing Husband and write about hearing loss. I can take walks, make good food and practice mindfulness. I’m not a Pollyanna, but all this helps me to understand that a better day and better communication are coming.

 

 

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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