Hearing in Unfamiliar Places

Meandering Through A Hearing World 

Hearing in Unfamiliar Places

Linda Bilodeau

I don’t understand why traveling should create a hearing problem, but for me it does. Suffering from profound hearing loss, I do my best to stay within a realm of familiarity. It is simply easier to hear. I frequent the same pharmacy, restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, and shopping malls. I’ve had the same dentist and doctors for years. The people who know me realize I have a hard time hearing and accommodate me. And when I run into a clerk who speaks lightning fast, I have more confidence of handling the situation when surroundings are familiar.

I believe going to a new city or area is difficult for me because what I see and hear is different. I traveled recently and though it was by car, (airports and train stations present other problems), I found stopping for gas or to eat stressful. Staying in an unfamiliar hotel room made me acutely aware that I can’t hear the bedside telephone ringing, nor could I hear well enough to make a phone call to guest services. I would not be able to hear a smoke alarm or an announcement regarding an emergency evacuation.

Thankfully my husband was with me. I was very grateful for his ears. We steered away from throngs and kept to ourselves the whole time we were away. We saw the sights we were interested in, and took many quiet walks. We arrived at restaurants a bit earlier than our reserved time in order to find a perfect hearing table. When I couldn’t hear a store clerk, waiter, or waitress, my husband helped me through. If I didn’t mention my hearing problem, he did. We found most folks stepped up and did their best to speak slowly in order to help me hear. All in all it was a great trip, but I was glad when we were packing up and driving home. Even my husband said that going back to all that we knew would be good for both of us.

There isn’t one single answer about how to cope with a trip when you have hearing loss. Everyone is different. Everyone responds to stress in various ways. I suppose some who suffer from hearing loss are untroubled by traveling. I take my hat off to such souls. But for those of us who grow a little uneasy when taking a trip, I say to you, try. Making an effort to get out, to see new places and experience all that this wonderful country of ours has to offer, is the best possible way to live as you meander through the hearing world.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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