A Bluffer’s Guide to Beauty Services

Today I had a long overdue manicure and pedicure. I escaped with my fingers and toes intact, but the service would have gone more smoothly if I’d followed my own rules for hearing loss self-advocacy

For most people, having a manicure, haircut, barber’s shave, dye job, eyelash lift, massage or any other personal beauty service is a pleasure.

People with hearing loss enjoy these things too – when we can understand the people providing the service. They’re usually behind us, above us, or we have our eyes closed. If they’re in front of us, they are masked. We may hear them, but it’s gobbledygook. We ‘get’ some of their words and, if we’re lucky, the intent of what they’re saying, but not enough to feel comfortable making a stab at the answer. Except that we DO take a stab! We respond even though we’re not quite sure what’s going down. This is called bluffing – and we shouldn’t do it!

What if we agree to a hair color or cut that we don’t want? What if our lash extensions are so long that we can barely blink with their weight? These can be the consequences if we bluff our way through the answers. If we don’t want to pay a fortune for something we’re not happy with, or is simply awful, some upfront work is necessary.

Practitioners at nail salons wore masks before the pandemic and they’re still wearing them now. I have no problem with that. But what complicates things for me is that the native language of the mani-pedicurists is usually not the same as mine, and I have difficulty with their accents. When I self-identify with hearing loss, it can be challenging, even when they lower their mask. Yesterday, the esthetician was trying to tell me something about my horrible feet, and I agreed and ended up with a special (and expensive) service on my big toes. I also agreed to a premium leg massage because it seemed easier to nod than to discuss what was so special about what she was about to do to me. All I will tell you is that my 5 foot tall esthetician’s hands are as strong as the Hulk’s. There was pain, but I was able to walk out of there.

The good news is that, for the first time, there was captioning on the TV set. Watching a cooking show (in which everything was deep-fried) helped take my mind off what was going down at the end of my body. 

Next time, I will absolutely stick to my rules of self-identifying and self-advocating.

  1. Tell or remind the hairdresser or esthetician that you have hearing loss and that when you take off your devices, you will not understanad the spoken word. You need to see their lips and yelling won’t help.
  2. From the get-go, explain what you want and what you don’t. Come to an agreement with your service provider.
  3. If they need to tell you something partway through the procedure, you may be able to understand through speechreading and hand movements. If necessary, and you’re not pinned down with your eyes closed, you can put a hearing aid back in. If all else fails, ask for the issue to be written down.

Don’t skip any of the above steps. Bluffing only gets you into trouble; you may end up with an interesting haircut and your toes will throb for the rest of the day. Be assertive. Good luck and enjoy.

About Gael Hannan

The Better HearingConsumer addresses the personal experience of living with hearing loss. Editor Gael Hannan and her occasional guest bloggers explore every corner of the hearing loss life with humor and poignancy. Comment Policy   Gael Hannan, Editor Gael Hannan is an author, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog at the Better Hearing Consumer, which has a passionate international following,Gael has written two acclaimed books, “The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss”and “Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss”, written with Shari Eberts. 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 that advocates for individuals to become more knowledgeable and successful at dealing with their hearing loss and a more inclusive society for them to live in. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, Canada. Books and other media Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss. Written with Shari Eberts and available anywhere books are sold. The Way I Hear It: A Life With Hearing Loss. Available through online bookstores. Unheard Voices, DVD, vignettes from the hearing loss life. Contact Gael Hannan to order.


  1. Thank you! Great advice. When I get my hair done, I let my OTC aids “hang” with small plastic bags covering them and I hold up my Roger Pen in order to hear my hairdresser. But I confess that I often put up with too hot or too cold water during my hair wash. Too much trouble!

  2. Thank you for this. In addition to beauty services, I have similar issues with exercise classes. My CI processor doesn’t always stay in place with yoga poses and I cannot always see the instructor during some poses so I don’t know what’s next. It’s kind of embarrassing to be the only one in class not responding appropriately to instruction. I really have to get motivated to deal with the hurdles.
    I has a haircut yesterday and you really hit the nail on the head. Even if I tell someone I cannot hear, they seem to forget after about 2 minutes and I find myself pointing helplessly to my silent ears.
    These are the things that exhaust us as we navigate the hearing world.

  3. Spot pn as usual Gael. I once bluffed a nod while getting s pedicure Ended up with costly and quite hideous flowers painted all over my toes.

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