Huh, what, yeaaaaaah, no hang on, what?!
This is generally what’s going round my head a lot of the time during conversations with others, sometimes I’ll just say it all out loud as well. I am ‘hearing impaired,’ not totally deaf by any means but very much hard of hearing. I have about an 80% hearing loss in my right ear and about a 20% loss in my left- basically if you’re on my right hand side (and/or really annoying) I’ll most probably ignore you as I won’t have heard anything. I have a hearing aid for the worse ear but if I’m honest it don’t wear it as much as I should as I don’t find it that helpful. I have constant tinnitus (ringing in the ears) which can drive you a little crazy but worse things can happen
This isn’t something I have actually talked about on my blog, or my Instagram. It’s not for any reason, I just don’t think to mention it sometimes, however I’m coming to realise how much it actually affects me day to day, so I thought I’d write a post on the subject. I remember talking to my mum and dad about it and they both said how they wish they could take it away, as it can be quite isolating. I would always say I’d much rather they take anorexia than my duff ears but it is something that’s affected me a fair bit recently. It’s obviously not life threatening by any stretch, and the doctors have always thought they can keep me in the land of the hearing (whoooop), it’s just a bit of a bitch sometimes. I guess I’m at that crazy time in my life when I’m not sure which to take on nights out- my hearing aid so I may stand a chance of hearing something, or ear plugs to preserve what little hearing I do have should we hit disco- tech.
Deafness is a disability that isn’t actually visible, therefore it can be hard for others to be aware of it. I have ignored, and misheard, people on numerous occasions and if they’re not aware of my deafness they tend to think I’m either rude or odd, or both. To be fair I don’t mind being a bit odd, but I’m not rude. On one occasion at work, a lady told me just how rude I was as I’d ‘totally blanked’ her. I lifted my hair and showed her my hearing aid, explaining I was a bit deaf. Needless to say she was mortified, but how was she to know. Being called ‘super arrogant’ for ignoring someone was also a high point- I’m not sure I’ve ever been arrogant in life, I’m not confident enough to be!
It can be quite an isolating thing. Hearing everything when in a group is a mission. When you’ve just about realised what someone’s said, someone else has said something that you totally missed because you were trying to work out WHAT THE HELL they were talking about in the first place. I’ll often withdraw from situations, and I find myself flicking through my phone to avoid anyone talking to me, so I don’t have the embarrassment of not hearing them. Sometimes I even react to something I think I’ve heard, as I’m so conscious of not hearing, when in actual fact nothing happened! These moments are great- I once answered a phone that hadn’t even rung, in front of people. What I thought was a ring, was actually a bird outside.
I lip read which can make things much easier, if you can at least see their face, you stand a chance. Back in Worcester I used to go to a lip reading group. I was probably the youngest by about 67 years, but deafer than some of them. I LOVED my lip readers, it was almost like having surrogate grandparents. I remember a new lady joining once, she was deafer than me, and I spend an entire term calling her Cheryl. Her name was in fact Sharon but I’d misheard/. To lip read, both Sharon and Cheryl look similar too. She didn’t mind as she couldn’t hear what I was calling her anyway!
There are also great moments in conversation when you realise you’ve said completely the wrong thing. I once gave my friend a fairly in depth debrief about some cheese she’d left in the fridge, only for her to tell me she’d asked about her ‘keeeeeeys’ FFS. I proudly presented my old boss (and dad) with a can of coke at lunch once. He looked at me confused and said he’d asked for a ‘CAKE’- that’s obviously not all bad as I saved him a boat load of calories. Cinema trips are fun too- I’m getting to the point where I really need to see subtitled films. The Revenant for example, WTF was that about! The thing with my hearing is that it’s guys, and low tones that I struggle to hear. It’s also guys who tend to give less away with the facial expressions and hand movements. Team that with the bloody hipster beards that are oh so in trend right now and it’s all a lip reading nightmare. Give me an over exuberant, high pitch girl and I’m on it. The most I can tell you about The Revenant was that Leo was having a freaking mare and Tom Hardy was being a totally shit, other than that, not quite so sure.
There are ways other can make it easier. If you know anyone who’s deaf, or hearing impaired maybe try these:
- Avoid seating yourself with a window behind you when someone is trying to lip read you, it’s even harder when your face is in shadow
- Try not to suggest going to the nosiest, open plan restaurant you know- seems obvious but places like Wagamama are a nightmare
- Sunglasses- I know they look all cool but as a lip reader it does throw you. There’s no eye contact, there’s no expression from the eyes, they also actually detract from the mouth
- Be that extra bit ‘TV presenter’ if you’re talking to someone who’s hearing impaired. By this I mean use hand gestures, be a bit over exuberant, speak clearly
- Speaking clearly is a point in itself. It means just that, not EMPHASISING EVERY WORD like the person may not actually have a brain. An over emphasis of each single word actually makes it harder. Speak normally, just clearly and maybe ever so slightly slower
- Learn to finger spell. If you know the person can finger spell this can really help. Giving someone the first letter of a word, when they may not be able to lip read it, helps them out. I have tried to teach my mum this but she’s kind of made up her own which just looks like a series of animal hand shadows
- If you’re approaching a hearing impaired person, try and let them know you’re there. It may not seem like you’re creeped up on them, so as to scare the absolute hell out of them, but they may not be aware you’re there.
- Avoid saying ‘it doesn’t matter,’ if someone asks you for the 58th time what you’ve said. It’s quite rude, and frustrating. Instead maybe think why the person hasn’t worked out what you’re saying after so many attempts
So, should I ever meet any of you, and I either blank you, or say ‘yeah, great that’s amazing!’ when you’ve told me your dogs died, I’m not being rude, I just can’t hear