I’ve watched my husband converse with our friends and noticed their conversations flowing from one topic to the next, without a hearing incident. It seems he catches every word, even in noise. My dear man answers questions or throws in a comment or opinion, without worrying about being off topic. Like most people with normal hearing, he takes his communication abilities for granted.  Am I envious? Yes! We are social beings. Conversing is the way we connect, how we exchange ideas, and express how we think and feel. Those who  hear normally have an advantage. Those suffering from hearing loss often feel left out.

Most with hearing loss struggle to hear when in a restaurant, bar, or at a party. In noise, my mini mic hears for me. Yet, even with my trusted mechanical friend, I sometimes miss what is being said. Worse, there are times when I answer incorrectly. Expressing my opinion means risking that the conversation will take a reckless ninety-degree turn. It is obvious when I comment inappropriately. There are the big eyes, the dropped jaws, and the head scratching.

My husband has witnessed some of my hearing mishaps. In a very diplomatic way, he steers me back onto the right hearing track. When we’re alone, he asks if I was embarrassed because I couldn’t follow a particular conversation. I usually laugh and say, “Why be embarrassed? If nothing else I got everyone’s attention.”

Even if you possess a good sense of humor and are willing to let a hearing mistake shed, like rain from a waterproof coat, not understanding conversation is frustrating. Many with hearing loss have been there. How people react to missing beats depends on how they feel about illness or disabilities. Are you the sort who sees yourself as perfectly normal in spite of your hearing loss? Or are you the type who prefers to stay home, not engaging in the social world because you can’t hear?

I had an uncle who, while serving in the Navy, developed a benign spinal tumor. Unfortunately, the surgery to remove the tumor left him paraplegic and wheelchair bound. Following his surgical recovery, he spent time in a rehabilitation hospital, learning to function as normally as possible. After receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy, he came home and found a job. He eventually married and had a beautiful daughter. Because he lived in a northern state, getting around in the winter in a wheelchair was difficult. These were the days before the Americans with Disabilities Act. There were no accessible restrooms or walkways. He and a group of veterans got together and petitioned the mayor of the city to put in wheelchair friendly curbing. The mayor complied. I often think of my deceased uncle as an inspiration. He believed in possibilities and doing what was right.

It doesn’t matter if you have mild, moderate, severe, or profound hearing loss or whether you were late deafened, born with hearing loss or if your inability to hear developed suddenly or slowly over time. It does not make any difference if you have a sensorineural loss, a single-sided loss, or a conductive hearing loss. What matters is that you treat your hearing loss with appropriate technology, that you see your audiologist or hearing health professional often, that you wear your aids or implants, and use hearing accessories if they help you. Try not to succumb to hearing frustrations. Never put limitations on your life because you have hearing loss.  As we meander through the hearing world, we have to realize that hearing loss may interrupt our social interactions. We will not always hear what we want to hear. However, with help and a bit of spunk, we can enjoy our lives as best we can, in spite of our hearing loss.

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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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