Something very surprising happened to me just over a year ago. I began to lose all my hearing in one ear. And I made the discovery that the 'good' ear was also pretty bad. Well, crap. As I've moved through this process I've learned some things. Chances are that you aren't going deaf, which is awesome! Go you! But ... being in the world, you might have to deal with people like me, who are. So here's a short little list about how to deal with hearing loss on both sides.
- It's hard for us to ask you to repeat something. When we do, please don't say 'nevermind' and refuse our request. We know we missed out on something and when you do this it isolates us further and makes us feel as if we don't count as much as 'normal' people.
- We may have difficulty hearing you, but we didn't suddenly drop fifty IQ points. You don't have to dumb something down for us. Simply repeat it.
- Louder isn't always better! This one surprised me. Often times I can hear the volume of what you're saying, but I can't distinguish the sounds you're making. Enunciating helps me more than dialing it up a notch.
- Finally, look at me when you're talking to me. For one, the sound simply carries better. For another, I can pick up a lot of cues by watching your lips.
- One of the hardest things I've had to learn is when to tell people I'm partially deaf. Who wants to announce a hearing issue when they first meet someone? You need to suck it up and do that to help avoid awkward moments like the time the hostess of the party had been yammering in my ear for who knows how long while I'd been happily ignoring her.
- Add value! I've learned sign to a few fun phrases. So after I explain that I have a hearing issue, I can teach them something useful, like how to say "Die in a fire!" and "You make baby Jesus cry" in ASL. It's an ice-breaker at any rate.
- Reduce background noise. Sometimes this one isn't on you, but when you can, go for one-on-ones with people. Turn off the tv, the music, find a quiet room. Less sound filtering is better!
- Take it with as much humor as you can. The people you love are adjusting to this new you as well. If you accept it with good grace, those around you will as well.