Socializing with Hearing Loss

Meandering Through A Hearing World

Socializing with Hearing Loss

Because I suffer from a profound hearing loss, I struggle to hear in noise. I know I’m not alone. Almost everyone complains about the din in public places. There are times when I’ve refused invitations knowing I don’t have it in me to put up with a struggling-to-hear evening. Yet, I like being out with my friends and family. They say it’s best to be prepared. So when accepting an invitation to spend an evening out, I try to make the time hearing friendly.

As my hearing diminishes, I’m finding it harder and harder to keep up with conversation when seated with a large group of people in restaurants. Words fly by me, not making a bit of sense. When listening to the person seated next to me, I have to concentrate and put the words I do hear in context. Though I’m good at it, (amazing according to my husband), I find myself drooping with exhaustion by the time I get home. Knowing your hearing limits help. When possible, my husband and I try to socialize with only one other couple at a time. That way the conversation is focused and easier to understand.

When going to a restaurant, I try to arrive ahead of my reservation to stake out the perfect hearing table. I use Open Table and other online reservation systems to request a booth or corner table. When arriving at a restaurant I scan around the room, ensuring I will be seated with my back to a wall. I also make sure I can see faces in order to lip read.

I love my hearing aids because they adjust to background noise automatically. An app on my phone allows me to further adjust background noise should the need arise. I can turn the volume of my aids up and down, which helps me hear a woman. I’m not shy about asking someone to repeat. I speak up when I can’t hear enough of a sentence to make sense of it.

Cocktail parties are more problematic. It’s hard to circulate and converse when you can’t hear. Again I have my tricks. I tend to stand on the fringe of the party instead of diving into the center of the room where the noise level is insurmountable. If I see someone I want to talk with, I pull them aside, explaining that I have a hearing problem. I’ve gotten strange looks, but most people understand.

Studies have shown that even people with minimal hearing loss tend to isolate themselves, which can lead to depression and dementia. We are social beings. We need to feel part of something. It doesn’t matter whether you have five friends or fifty. What matters is that you get out there and meander through the hearing world, enjoying your friends and family.

Please note: I will be away for the next few weeks. The column will resume May 6.

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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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