It’s always a pleasure to run into people who understand my hearing predicament. Last Thursday was one such day. I arrived at a neighborhood community meeting early and was lucky enough to get a front row seat. As I was looking over agenda items, a friend, who is also active in community affairs and suffers from hearing loss, came over and sat next to me.
“So nice to see you,” she said. “I’ve been meaning to e-mail you.”
My friend went on to ask if I was still using a mini mic to help me hear in noisy environments. I explained that I was not as I had switched to another brand of hearing aids and found that company’s mini mic didn’t help me. She asked me how I was getting by without it, and I told her that though I could hear better in noise, I had my moments of hearing meltdowns.
“Oh,” she said. “You have those, too. I was at a party last night and hearing became so impossible, I asked my husband to take me home.”
“My goodness,” I said. “What happened?”
She went on to explain that between the band playing and a chorus of voices, she was finding it next to impossible to hear. She said that someone approached her and tried talking to her, but because of background noise, she couldn’t hear a word he said.
“You’d think they might have stopped talking or moved to a different spot,” she said. “But oh no. The person kept talking and talking, ignoring what I had said.” Then she laughed and said, “You know, we should wear t-shirts to noisy parties embossed with the words: can’t hear in noise.”
“I’d wear one of those,” I said. “Hearing loss is so invisible. Unless you tell someone you can’t hear, they have no way of knowing.”
“And even then,” my friend echoed. “They look at you as if you’re perfectly normal. No one wants to believe something is wrong with you.”
Raise your hands if this has ever happened to you. You’re at a party, a restaurant, or even in a grocery store. Someone tries talking to you, you ask them to repeat or tell them you have a problem hearing and the person continues talking as if they hadn’t heard what you said. What do you do? I’ve tried many methods. I’ve stopped people in mid-sentence and told them, it’s impossible for me to hear and asked them if they minded moving to another room or area where it was quieter. I’ve asked people to repeat what they said. Some folks have graciously helped me out, by doing as I requested. Others have shrugged and walked away. I’ve had experiences like my friend has had, where in spite of what I’ve said, some people refuse to believe there’s anything wrong with you. They continue talking as if you’re normal. I suppose they think if they speak louder or say something in a different way, you will hear. But you don’t. Well at least I don’t.
I wish I had the perfect solution, but hearing needs are individualistic. We all have to learn how to interact socially. We all have to speak up for ourselves. We have to find the best technology that will help us hear. Taking care of ourselves, and helping each other out is the only way to meander through the hearing world.