Meandering Through the Hearing World
Honesty with Hearing Loss
Like everyone else, I have friends and loved ones who hear normally. My family helps me when I need or ask for help. My husband goes out of his way to make sure I live a normal life. Close friends, who know about hearing loss, ensure that I hear in social situations. But it wasn’t always this way. It took time and courage to get to a place where I felt comfortable telling others about my hearing loss.
When first diagnosed, I did not tell friends or business associates about my hearing loss. I was afraid. There are misunderstandings and stigmas, the thought that if you cannot hear, you must be impaired. I didn’t want anyone to think of me as different, needy, or incapable.
How I deluded myself! I realized how wrong I was in a most unexpected way. Several years ago, my husband reconnected with a medical school friend who had retired near us. We would often socialize together, eating out, attending parties at each other’s homes. I never told the couple of my hearing loss and just struggled through conversation, thinking I was on top of it all.
One day my husband told me that his friend asked him why I often answered questions inappropriately and why I didn’t seem to follow conversation. Was something wrong with me? My husband laid it out in front of me and said it was up to me to either tell his friend about my hearing loss or to continue on a path that left people wondering.
I listened to my husband. After I told his friend about my hearing loss, I was surprised at his and his wife’s understanding. My revelation drew out their kindness. They often asked, “how can we help you.” It took courage on my part, but I told them that I needed to be seated with a wall behind me in restaurants, that finding a good “hearing table” was everything, that my mini mic, that I was reluctant to use, subtracted background and improved my hearing.
They seemed to understand it all. Overtime they started to ask for my help. “I have a friend with hearing loss do you know a good audiologist?” “My sister has hearing loss, would you mind telling her how to get started with treating it.”
You do take a chance when you reveal your hearing loss. I know people who were not so kind, who felt that I did have a problem that they couldn’t deal with. I did not like being ostracized. Over time, I ignored those who lacked understanding. I decided that I am who I am and my hearing loss has changed nothing about me.
I wish I had the perfect answer for dealing with hearing loss but I don’t. I’ve suffered from hearing loss for over 40 years and have learned that one of the best things I can do for myself is to take a chance and tell others about my hearing loss. Experiencing the kindness of close friends has helped. Knowing that I have opportunities to help others with hearing loss has made me feel that I am not alone in my meanderings through the hearing world.