“The thing about hearing loss is that no one can see it. You simply can’t look at a person and tell if they have a loss. Most people are so impatient and they just assume that the person with hearing loss is being rude, or they may even think that the person is slow-witted, when in fact they simply can’t hear.” Marion Ross
My hearing loss has been part of me since I was a small child. I’ve learned to adapt over the years. I watch lips, body language, facial expressions and hands. It is amazing what you can learn about someone just by watching. Sometimes things are revealed to me without the person knowing. When someone tells me something, I quite often pick up undercurrents from the conversation just by watching their lips, their eyes and their body movement. I ask pointed questions and quite often get surprised responses. Several years ago my hearing deteriorated making hearing more difficult than ever before. People think that amplification is the answer to my hearing loss, but amplification does not help. When sound is amplified, I just hear noise and if the noise is too loud my brain becomes confused making lip-reading difficult as well. Feeling deflated when I realized my hearing had deteriorated, I decided I only had one choice and that choice was to adapt and overcome. I make sure I tell people I’m severely hearing impaired so they know that I’m not ignoring them. At work phones became a problem for me, so I signed on to Telus’ IP relay service and now use this service for my phone communication. I’m sure some of the people I’m dealing with on the phone find it annoying but my overall experience has been positive because I think people admire that I’m still willing to try to communicate even though it’s difficult.
Parties, or any event where there are lots of people in a room, is a nightmare for my senses. It can be overwhelming and I have to breathe in very deep and focus on the person I’m talking to. My concentration has to be incredibly focused because of the volume of noise around me. With that much noise around me, it is hard to zero in on the person and read their lips as their voice blends in with the rest of the noise and the sound of their voice is no longer directed my way, overwhelming my senses and confusing my brain. This is where my years of adaptability comes in to play, as I will lean into the person and watch their lips and their eyes and focus as if that person was the only person in the room. Somehow I manage to read their lips and carry on a conversation, something a hearing person has no idea how difficult this simple action is to master. Unfortunately, in this world today people are so impatient and the lack of empathy in today’s society can make my hearing situation very uncomfortable in social situations. The fact that I have to stare at someone so intensely can be un-nerving for some people and it’s interesting to watch people’s reaction to that intensity. Ironically, most people would help a blind man across the street but people, in general, display impatience for the deaf and hearing impaired community. The older I get the less I care what people think about me or my deafness. Some of the rumours about me have come my way; I’m a snob, I’m a bitch and the one that hurts the most, that I’m not smart! I have to admit, the not smart one bothers me because the amount of brain power I have to use every single day just to hear one word that the hearing world takes for granted is significantly greater than most people.
I went through a range of in-depth hearing tests several years ago. Eight hours in a room listening to various sounds and tones to reveal what I knew, my hearing deteriorated to the point that my hearing aids no longer aid my hearing loss as much as they used to. I am a candidate for cochlear implants, the audiologist also suggested that I put myself on a list for a hearing dog. Her reasoning for the dog is that my hearing has deteriorated to the point that I would not be able to hear our smoke detector or carbon monoxide detector should something happen. So far I haven’t signed on for the dog but my youngest son is pushing me to put my name on that list. The audiologist also told me that my ability to lip read is fairly accurate as well as my ability to piece conversations together like a jigsaw puzzle giving me a very high intuition level, higher than the average person.
My youngest son, Matthew, especially takes advantage of my lip-reading ability. He often forgets his water bottle for hockey and in the middle of his hockey game, he will skate by where I’m sitting in the rink and lip to me “I forgot my water bottle.” The boys went to a Catholic elementary school and every now and then I would join their class for their monthly masses, I usually sat several pews back and Matt would turn to find me, catch my eyes and lip “get me out of here.” However, he tells me that it is rude to drop in on conversations when people don’t know I’m reading their lips, a habit I try to curb especially when Matt is around. The lip-reading thing can be interesting as I see and observe things that most people don’t see. The other day I was working out in the gym and a group of six fifteen year old boys crowded the area, so much so that I couldn’t complete my lunges. I left my water bottle on one of the benches as I was planning to work out my arms next, and took my barbell and moved to the other side of the room. As I dropped into a lunge, I noticed one of the young boys was moving toward my water bottle and I read his lips as he was saying to his buddy, “What is this fucking chick doing, she’s hogging this bench and she’s not here.” I walked over to him with my barbell over my head and I said “hey, that fucking bench is mine, don’t even think about taking it.” The look on his face was priceless and as I turned around to go back to my area I smiled and thought “the kid doesn’t know it but I”m just happy he called me a chick and not an old lady.”
This morning while at yoga and doing balancing exercises, my instructor said “you have to find your foundation in order to get to your core.” The core of my being is my hearing loss as it affects every facet of my life. My foundation is my soul as I remain grounded and true to myself giving me the strength to deal with the many different aspects of hearing loss while leaning on the pillars of life.