The Hearing Loss Puzzle Pieces – That Don’t Always Fit

Today was one of those “off” days. Lots of things going wrong, nothing major, but just enough, including a hearing-related thing, to make you a bit grumpy.

For days like these, I’ve developed some signposts that help me along the hearing loss journey. These sayings inspire me (when I stop and think about them) to live better with my issue.

You know, things like:

  • Having hearing loss is just one aspect of who I am. While challenging, it’s not the greatest challenge I will face as a human being.
  • My most important goal is not to hear better, but to communicate
  • By being honest about my hearing loss and articulating my needs, I become a better communicator.
  • Hearing technology helps me hear. When I stopped fighting it, I started hearing better.
  • It’s not always easy to see the humor in awkward hearing moments—but it helps.

But also over time, I’ve learned the hard way, one conversation at a time, that the hearing loss life can be like puzzle pieces that don’t always fit together. Sometimes you’re not looking at it the right way and you have to try something different. Other times, you have to accept it as “that’s life” and move on.  

  • When your hearing aid dies – for simply no good reason and without any advance warning – it will be on a Friday evening. There are no weekend emergency hearing aid repair services.
  • If it dies on a Monday through Thursday, you will be far, far away from home and from your usual help. Backcountry camping, perhaps, or on a walking tour of upper Lapland.
  • If your cochlear implant batteries fizz out – such as mine did today – you may find that none of the several packages you bought just two days ago, are in your purse. And I discovered this when there was no hope of buying replacements; the Hearing Husband and I were stranded for hours waiting for a ferry back to our Vancouver Island home. Ferry terminal markets sell cookies and coffee, not hearing device batteries. Ditto for the actual ferry.

Then there are all those non-technical communication glitches, some of which are beyond our control:

  • Mumblers can only do what mumblers do – mumble. They can’t not mumble for more than a few words at a time because they feel self-conscious, as if they’re yelling. Trust me, there are no mumblers in my inner circle.
  • Hearing people like to show off how well they hear. Do you hear that bird, they ask? No. Really? You can’t hear it? But it’s so loud. (Show-off!)
  • Someone is telling a joke, and you’re doing pretty well through hearing and speechreading. Just as the joke-teller reaches the punchline, he turns his head and delivers it to the universe. People are already laughing which drowns out what little bit you might have caught. What are you gonna do? What you should do is ask for a repeat, but what you actually do is laugh like crazy at the funniest joke you never heard.
  • And, because we are so dependent on speechreading, we can’t help but notice things we aren’t meant to see. Such as when people talk with food in their mouth, treating you to repeated and unwanted glimpses of mastication in action. Kaka-yuck!
  • Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. That’s us! We keep saying pardon, and the other person repeats the exact same words in the exact same way. This, we have some control over; instead of saying pardon for the third or fourth time, we can ask for a repeat in a different way, compelling them to answer in a different way, which we will hopefully understand.

These situations, and thousands more, can be funny if you think about it. So, give yourself a laugh – think about it! The inspiring stuff, too.

And next time someone asks you, perhaps when doing a puzzle together, if you can hear that tiny little bird high up in the tree that’s 50 feet away, answer, No, but I can hear you – you’re mumbling less than usual today! Oh, hang on, you have a bit of kaka stuck in your teeth.

Moving on….

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.

2 Comments

  1. Well said, nice article as if this was the collective opinion of the hearing I’m a disabled veteran and my hearing was damaged through service. I wear hearing aids bilaterally, and they have greatly improved my life. Although the hearing aids help, my hearing is only reliable relative to the environment; I understand, even the best hearing aids are compromised. What’s compromised? Well it’s as if I’m not wearing them, I still have voids in conversations, even with my high quality hearing aids. I’m sure many others experienced this. I would like to hear from others.

    1. Hi Kory, thanks for writing about a very common problem. Hearing aids are amazing technological marvels, but they do not return us to perfect hearing. It’s difficult to discern speech in noisy environments or when many people are talking at once. Understanding how to deal with this challenge will help – expressing our needs, changing the listening environment, etc. There is a lot of information available on this, including in my book Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss. http://www.HearAndBeyond.com.

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