How A Friend Helped Me Hear

Meandering Through A Hearing World

How A Friend Helped Me Hear

I was invited to a dinner party this week. There would be a small group, the hostess told me, just seven people, and she promised a light meal. Now doesn’t that appeal? In January I’m always busy working off those five extra pounds that land on my hips after holiday feasting. My husband and I accepted the invitation, ready for a fun evening.

My husband and I and the three other guests arrived at the same time. We gathered in my friend’s living room for wine, drinks, a few appetizers, and conversation. My friend and I were sitting across the room from each other. She and I began talking about a women’s discussion group that we both belong to.

I never would have guessed that the din of such a small group would bother me. But in a house with ten-foot ceilings and no carpeting, sound bounces everywhere making it hard to hear. It became clear that I was not hearing her well after I became unable to piece together her words into a sentence that made sense. There were simply too many other conversations going on at the same time as well as a bit of background music. I leaned forward in my chair, hoping to catch more words.

My lovely and understanding friend picked up on my body language. She rose from her seat, came over to where I was seated and stood beside me so I could hear her. I felt bad. Should I have been the one to cross the room to be near her? Should I have suggested we go in another room where the background noise wasn’t so loud?

You should never fret about good luck or friends. My friend was willing to go out of her way to help me hear. I was grateful. We had a nice conversation, a back and forth about the pros and cons of the topics chosen for discussion in our women’s group as well as our thoughts on some of those topics. We conversed for about twenty minutes until she left me, saying she had to see to dinner.

When her meal was ready, we were asked to go to the dining room. Sitting around a table was a relief as I could see faces, and in a smaller room, we more or less talked one at a time, which for me is always a better hearing environment. It was interesting to hear the other guests’ opinions about movies, the cold weather we were experiencing, and what we’d been up to since the holidays. The food, seafood pasta and Caesar salad, was delicious. And for desert, we all feasted on vanilla ice cream topped with my friend’s homemade raspberry liquor sauce, so much for thinking my hips would be spared.

It isn’t easy to socialize when you suffer from hearing loss. We all have had our experiences, some of which leave us with the idea that staying home and tuning into Netflix is a more relaxing and enjoyable evening. Why go out, we tell ourselves. At home I can hear my television. At home I have captioning to help me fill in the blinks of what I can’t hear. But becoming a hermit doesn’t help our well-being or our hearing health. And even though it is difficult, challenging, and exhausting, it is important to get out there and meander through the hearing world, if for no other reason than to catch up with your very good friends.

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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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