by Linda Bilodeau
During the summer months, my husband and I like to catch up with our local friends who live in our Southwest Florida town full-time. The other night we were invited to someone’s house for dinner and were served a fine meal, pork tenderloin with apricots, couscous, asparagus, and a delightful French rosé. We spent a lively evening talking about our shared interest in movies, books, and politics. As friends we agree on most things.
My husband and his friend met as medical school classmates many years ago, and the men lost track of each other after graduation. Four years ago, they ran into each other at a class reunion and discovered they lived close by. Since then, we’ve gotten together frequently.
As the evening went on, my husband and his friend spent time conversing about their mutual medical school friends, people I didn’t know. I didn’t interject much as I noticed they were enjoying their discourse. I felt these two old friends needed time together.
The next day my husband received an email from his friend asking if I was okay. He remarked about how quiet and reserved I’d been, and he wondered if I had not been feeling well or if my hearing had diminished. When my husband relayed our friend’s note to me, I was a bit surprised, but realized it was written out of the concern of someone who cared.
It isn’t a leap for friends, relatives, or acquaintances to think that something is wrong with your hearing if you’re not your usual conversant self. Let’s face it, when you’re in a noisy place or on the unfamiliar hearing ground of someone else’s home, it’s easy to lose confidence in your ability to hear, particularly if conversation is at jackhammer speed. Even with the best of hearing aids, I’ve always found it hard to hear outside my normal milieu. Those of us with hearing loss need to concentrate on what is being said, which can be hard and exhausting work. Being tired or stressed leads to an inability to focus, which can contribute to a bad hearing evening.
Many of us shy away in social situations. Some avoid gatherings completely. It’s entirely understandable. There’s always the fear that we will say something wrong or answer inappropriately, making us feel foolish. It’s happened to me many times; I’ve learned this kind of embarrassment comes with hearing loss territory. Yet, I socialize because I want to keep myself out there and engaged with the hearing world.
Communication is our way of letting our dearest friends know what we are thinking and how we are feeling, and understanding the same about them. Going to parties, restaurants and other public events can contribute to well-being and longevity. Studies have shown that sequestering yourself can result in cognitive problems, including dementia and depression.
I told my husband to write back to his friend and to let him know I was fine. I said, “Please tell him that I enjoyed the evening, the great food, and listening (yes, I did hear) to all the reminiscing. Thank him for caring enough to ask about whether or not I was okay.” There’s nothing better than knowing that people care about you and your hearing health.