Actually, if you “got it” there would not be millions of late deafened adults out there trying to get friends and family to understand what is going on without being considered a crank, a faker, or just delusional.
Most late deafened adults are not totally deaf. We hear environmental noises – like lawnmowers and jet airplanes and car engine motors. Unfortunately, human voices are not in that hertz range. What is a hertz range? I hope Bitco David stops by to expound, but non-sound engineer little me will make a stab at this.
Sound comes in different frequencies. The important sounds to humans is often called “the hearing banana” or “the speech banana” because the range curves like a banana. I’d show you mine, but I’ve misplaced it again. I can’t find a good commons photo, so here’s a link to a chart.
Once people start losing down into the 40 hertz level, the ability to understand human speech is adversely impacted. Shouting doesn’t help since the issue is the tenor of the voice, plus shouting distorts sound. Lowering of the voice can help. at least, to a point. For instance, I understand men better than women. The higher the voice the harder it is for me to understand. Those piping high voices of little kids are often beyond the range I can hear – except for my grandson, whose voice is somehow turned into James Earl Jones playing Darth Vader by my hearing aid.
More than that, certain speech sounds are higher or lower than other speech sounds. So a mild hearing loss may take: f, th, s v, m, n, ng, and l out of the range of understanding. It will also make j, i, b, and p as well as z, u, d, a and k dicey to hear. But that still leaves us with g, o, r, sh, and h as well as a crying baby. This might explain why, when we don’t know you’re speaking to us you’re nothing but background noise.
Just out of curiosity, how many words can you make up using the letters g, o, r, sh, and h?
Speaking for the HoH, there are things you can do to make life easier for all of us – that “us” includes YOU.
1. Make sure we know you are going to talk with us. Use my name. Wave your hand at me. Get my attention. Only when I am looking at you should you start speaking – and speak directly to me – not the walls, floors or ceiling.
2. Speak clearly and distinctly. Don’t over-enunciate or speak s l o w l y because that makes your lip movement distorted. And speaking of lips – I can’t read them if you cover them with a mustache.
3. If there is background noise and you have control over it – turn it off. If not, turn it down. If you can do neither, get up close and personal so I can read your lips while you speak clearly and distinctly.
4. If you know I cannot hear you well use pen and paper or text me. I’ve had text conversations while at the same table with another person. Often a Deaf or HoH person will have their own pen and paper for such moments.
5. Never, ever, say “Never mind.” That’s a dismissal. It’s rude and hurtful. If the communication was important enough to get my attention and speak to me, it is important enough to complete. Even if you have to write it down. Even if it is no longer funny or timely to you. Let me be a part of any communication you begin.
6. Never make assumptions about what I can hear from what I have heard before. Background noise can mask sounds one moment – yet are crystal clear the next. My daughter thinks because I can hear something once I can always hear it – and she’s known me for 35 years. I can hear only what I can hear at the time I hear it – your HoH or deaf relatives are just the same as I am.
7. I do not deliberately misunderstand and present you with a non-sequitur for an answer. I thought I heard you and I thought I answered reliably. If I don’t understand, please say it again. Refer to #5 if unclear on this point.
8. Remember that this could be you someday. By the time we are 75 years old MOST adults have hearing loss.
9. A HoH or Deaf person is not “broken.” I do not need to be “fixed.” I could be very happy with my limited hearing and ASL if everyone spoke ASL. That being said, I do not object to wearing a hearing aid in an attempt to fit in with hearing society. My lack of full hearing does not make me lesser than a fully hearing person. I am just as vital and vibrant and alive as you are – and people I know who are DeafBlind are also vital and vibrant people.
10. If you know at least some ASL offer it. If the HoH person or deaf person does not know ASL, at least you tried. If nothing else, tell me “I love you.” Here, let me show you.
I know at times I go over and over and over the same ground on hearing issues. The reason I do is that so many people either don’t get it or, for some reason, don’t want to get it.
As HH the Dali Lama says, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.“