Why You Should Meet Other HoHs!

I just returned from the first live convention of the Hearing Loss Association of America since 2019, pre-pandemic days. It was just as awesome, fun, and inspiring as ever. Also hot and steamy – Tampa in June is not the coolest place on earth. But that’s a minor quibble. The following is why I believe that every person with hearing loss – at least once – should go to an event that has lots of people like them. It’s life-changing.

If you have hearing loss, do you know any other people with the same issues, or who may struggle the way you do (however that may be)?  Have you ever swapped notes with someone, shot the breeze, commiserated, shared battle stories and laughed at all the crap that goes along with hearing loss?

You may think, I don’t want to or need to. Many people feel they get sufficient support from their hearing health-care provider who has fitted them with hearing aids, with some other assistive technology thrown in. Or they surf the web, which overflows with advice blogs, professional sales pitches, and inexpensive neat stuff that claims to help you communicate better.

Well, here’s another sales pitch: for a happier, more accessible life, check out an event of people with hearing loss.

Just one meeting – that’s all I’m asking. Try an information seminar, a monthly meeting of a local hearing loss group, or a conference where you may possibly have the time of your life. Just once, try it.

Why, you ask?  You will leave the seminar or conference with a better understanding of how modern hearing technology can connect you to anything – your TV, your car, your phone, or your beloved. You’ll learn neat communication strategies to use at work or in social situations. And you will discover that PWHL are not a homogeneous group of needy people; we’re really just members of the general population with technical issues and a habit of saying ‘what’ a lot.

But those are peanut-sized benefits compared to the big one: you will come away with a new sense of your hearing loss, an attitude shift that may be subtle or dramatic. You’ll experience a warm positive glow or the feeling of being slugged with a golden sledgehammer. And both of these are good signs.

When you get home, your family will notice something different about you. They won’t be able to put their finger on it – but they’re thinking maybe something about the eyes and they will be right. Your eyes aren’t crazed, just a little shiny, glittering with the passion of the newly converted. You left the house frustrated with your hearing challenges, and have come home with a new sense of, “I have hearing loss – and hooray, that’s OK!”

It’s very liberating.  I know, because it happened to me.

After the closing banquet of my first PWHL conference, about 12 of us went to a pub. We were looking for a place that had room to accommodate our group, and was quiet enough to allow us to communicate. A few places were assessed and rejected – too dark, too loud, busy, bad décor – before the group found a suitable, almost empty place, with only one other occupied table, a quartet of ‘hearing’ people sitting in the corner.

Truth? 12 people with hearing loss who are drinking wine are LOUD. We talked loudly and laughed louder; our conversation was punctuated with frequent cries of ‘What did you say?! What did she say?!” I was embarrassed and even cringed at the annoyed looks coming from the ‘hearing’ people.

But then came that crystal-clear, life-changing moment. I thought, “So WHAT if we’re loud? We’re smart and funny, we’re paying for our beer, and this is how we communicate!”

That night I learned – I really got – that there’s no shame in hearing loss. (I also learned that small groups of PWHL work best in a pub.) But my outstanding take-away from the conference was a new perspective, the sense of normalcy about hearing loss that isn’t easy to absorb through the written word, either online or in articles. This was news to me – the understanding that I am just one of many people who are dealing with a challenging issue as we go about our lives.

Since that first Canadian Hard of Hearing Association conference, I’ve attended events around the world, frequently as an invited speaker. I’ve met what seems like thousands of people, inspirational, provocative, compassionate and interesting people, who help each other along the road to becoming knowledgeable PWHL. Some have become close friends, and I look forward to seeing them each year at the one event where I can truly relax, knowing that my communication needs will be both understand and met.

 

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.

8 Comments

  1. Hi Gael,

    I live in the National Capital Region & a few years ago, I had inquired around if there is such a group of HoHs gathering in a social environment & I was told by someone that they weren’t aware of one & they had suggested to me that I organize one which is hard to do if you don’t know of any personally…I am a member of CHHA Ottawa but they don’t organize social gatherings (that I am aware of) which is something critically important to those of us who are HoHs. Also it is hard to have these social events as most people are caught up in their own lives to even bother attending. Just a thought to share.

  2. How I would love to get together with some HOH peeps! I’m in Sumter, SC and the HLAA chapter, about an hour away, does not seem to meet very often. I imagined today what it would be like to sit at a table with others like me and not be left out or stressed out the whole time. I was thinking this after I went into a restaurant today with my family and a group from my church was there and they wanted us to sit with them (about 10 other people). These were super friendly people whom I trust and they understand my struggles, but I just wasn’t up to it. I was torn between wanting friendship and fellowship but also wanting peace and relaxation. How awesome would it be to not have to choose between the two…

  3. Thanks, Gael. When I attended my first HLAA convention, I was already a hearing loss and loop advocate. Still, the impact of the conference was enormous. I thought “These are my people.” And they were. And they are. I knew that these were people who wanted to hear as best they could, communicate as best they could, know about hearing loss as best they could, and are apologetically open about it. Me too! I just came back from Tampa too. Every conference is no less a thrilling and upbeat experience.

  4. There are middle people, between hearing people and Culturally Deaf people, who feel they don’t know where they belong. I am a PWHL, who is HOH and love being where I am – right in the middle. With hearing aids, I can hear more than I was able to hear for years when I thought I was a hearing person. I now have several HOH friends who have shown me that life with hearing loss can be very, very good. These friends are truly my people, my tribe. I always feel comfortable with them – no artificial nods and smiles when one of us needs something repeated. Our interests, activities and conversations are much the same as hearing people, but we are also able to share our hearing challenges and solutions with one another. And, we often laugh! Hearing people cannot possibly understand. You are so right. Finding HOH friends is empowering, confidence building, reinforces we aren’t alone and should be proud of who we are – individually and collectively.

  5. Gael…a question…is there an article or book that you would recommend regarding lip reading? Best, Steve

    1. Hi Stephen – on the top of the page, to the right of the cover photo, you will see a search box. Type in ‘speechreading’ and then scroll down and you will see a number of my articles where I discuss this. I can’t recommend any particular books on the subject, because it’s a visual skill. There are some good online speechreading courses… try readourlips.ca
      Good luck!

  6. Thanks for sharing Gael. Loved the most recent book btw. Extremely helpful and it demands multiple reads!

    1. Stephen, thanks! We would appreciate your dropping an Amazon review – it helps other people find our book!

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