Why don’t you listen? Why do you talk that way?


I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve heard that question from teachers, family, acquaintances, group members, and classmates – to name a few.

I can honestly say that I’ve made a life-long career out of listening until I’m exhausted from it.  My left ear is dead, kaput, beyond redemption, not even good for a CI. I’ve probably been hearing impaired on the right for that same period of time, but no one knew until I was an adult. The hearing in my “good” (seriously impaired) ear is fading.  Yes, that’s me, collapsed after a day of trying to listen to all the rest of you.  At the very least, get me a cup of cold water, please.

It wasn’t until I went digital about 8 years ago that I actually spent much quality time with hearing aids and I wasn’t fitted for one until around 1982 anyway. My newest, the awesome Phonak Naida S is the first one I forget I’m wearing (although I do get a sore ear from the interaction of glasses and BTE aid at times). Even then,using the best technology money can buy, my brain stopped processing certain signals from lack of use. And I still get agonizing “sound headaches” that are only cured by taking off the aid.

Why don’t I listen?  Jeeze Louise.  In a noisy restaurant I can hear the low tones in the kitchen better than the person sitting across from me.  Ditto for  noisy situations where local Bar Association meetings are at restaurants or pubs. When my grandkids do cartwheels through the house (literally) and shake metal tubs full of Ninjago  I not only don’t want a hearing aid in my ear, I want to scream, since abrupt noises are actually painful to my Meniere’s-affected hearing. And then there’s the strange things I can’t explain.  In the car when my grandson speaks it is as if James Earl Jones is projecting into my hearing aid.  If I take it out then I might not hear a siren.  I don’t know how to explain it.

When I go from a loud environment to a quiet one I’m so focused on projecting my voice over the noise that I continue to do so unless someone tells me I’m talking too loud.  I recently got my *ss chewed by someone who was irate over being able to hear me inside the house while I was on the phone outside.  It didn’t matter that it was like a 3-ring circus in there and  I fled outside to take  a phone call.  (sigh)

My roommate tells me that she never knows whether I’m going to be talking too loud, not loud enough or just right.  I feel as if I’m reliving the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears in terms of voicing. How do you tell if you are too loud if you can’t hear yourself that well?  It’s summer. Fans are on.  The AC is on. It is like being surrounded by a wall of machine noise.  How can anyone hear anything in all that?  Egads!  Not to mention that when my hearing was better I was taught to project my voice to an entire theatre. In fact, I was taught to speak in those “round pear-shaped tones” voice teachers like so much.

In meetings where I have interpreters I do my own voicing because I can.  Other attendees can’t understand why I need terps since I can talk.  The old “deaf and dumb” adage is alive and well.  In fact, it was suggested  I sit centrally and listen to people. Right, if I could do that I wouldn’t need terps, would I?  And there is an assumption that each Hard of Hearing (HoH) person is exactly like every other HoH person.  In fact, one person told me it was not like I was deaf from old age.  Really?  Someone who is old and deaf is different solely because of age?  People who are fully hearing really don’t get it. Recently a person went off on one of my interpreters for being “distracting.” Mind you, this person didn’t talk to me and instead started a fight with my terp during a break.  It ended up being a real brouhaha after I found out what was going on and got in the middle of the issue. Perhaps I should be less radical, but I’m unsympathetic to those who have two functional eyes and ears who can understand what is happening while I rely on terps.  No one speaking was anywhere near my terps or me . Close your eyes or look elsewhere.

If no one knows I can’t hear they presume I hear. Then I might be considered an airhead or inattentive, but not defective.  I can’t wait to see what happens if I am able to raise $20,000 to get a hearing ear dog in a couple of years (the time it takes to train one).

No wonder I look longingly at the Deaf Community and think … if only I were completely fluent in sign.  The expectations of the hearing can be totally overwhelming.

We, the  HoH and oral deaf are listening as hard as we can.  We’re working extremely hard to get the information hearing people do. You know, it could be you someday who is hard of hearing and wondering why everyone is telling you to listen up and stop talking so loud.

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