Meandering Through the Hearing World

When The Words Blur

It is always wonderful to be around people who know you, particularly during the holidays. I’ve been frequenting the same hair stylist for 14 years. She is well acquainted with my hearing loss. In fact, her husband has hearing loss so we often swap stories about the hearing equipment I use.  


Obviously, I have to remove my hearing aids as she colors, washes, cuts, and styles my hair. Usually, we can converse. I read lips and she has one of those voices that’s more alto than soprano. However since Covid, and with both of us wearing masks, there is no lip reading, I had to rely on piecing together what I could hear.


One of the things I love about this young woman is that she doesn’t mind repeating. We have a lot in common since we are both from Vermont. We exchange stories about our home towns.  As she applied the dye into my hair, she asked how my family members, who are still living in Vermont, spent Thanksgiving. I explained that it was a muted celebration given Covid, no big family gatherings this year. 


Then she said something. The only word I thought I heard was eggs. How did we go from talking about family and Thanksgiving to eggs? With no context to go on, I was lost in our conversation and asked her to repeat. She did, speaking slower and more distinctly. What she had said was,  “I’m not surprised to hear that your relatives had a muted Thanksgiving. Everyone is on edge this year.”


Don’t ask me how edge sounded like eggs. I supposed that it isn’t surprising. Without hearing aids I hear very little. My type of hearing loss prevents me from hearing consonants. I should appreciate that I heard the sound of e. As we continued talking, my hair stylist slowed down and carefully pronounced her words. She made sure I could hear.  We talked about how her husband wants a pair of in-the-canal hearing aids. I explained what I knew about them, how I used to wear them, and why I thought they were a great choice. We also talked about peripheral devices, particularly mini mics. She thought a mini mic might help her husband. 


When she finished working her magic with my hair, I looked in the mirror, pleased with the transition. The grey was gone. My hair was back to a lovely shade of honey blonde. It looked perfect. I thanked her for a job well done. “You are the most patient person I know,” I said. “It’s obvious that you live with someone with hearing loss.”


“Yes,” she said. “I try to help my husband. And I have a few clients who, like you, can’t hear well. I know what to do and say.” She deserves an A in handling people with hearing loss. She helps while respecting you.


We often need the help of others to hear. We can be proactive by telling people about our hearing loss and by asking them to speak slowly and distinctly. We can ask for their patience when we need them to repeat. We can concentrate and use the best hearing tools possible. We can keep our sense of humor and not get flustered when we can’t hear. Recognize that acknowledgement, patience, and a bit of help from family and friends will allow for us to ease our way through the hearing world. 


Be well. Hear well. Have happy and safe holidays. May 2021 bring us better hearing times. 


The next column will be posted on January 11, 2021. 

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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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