I’ve been perusing the book Shouting Won’t Help by Katherine Bouton and am fascinated by it. I’m pondering buying a copy when I give this one back to the library. I’m sure it will spawn dozens of commentaries. Today’s is from page 22, paragraph 3. “I hear voices, but I don’t always hear words.”
Oh, if only…
I suppose this is time to plug the book Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks because the hearing impaired/Hard of Hearing/or previously hearing deaf can literally hear voices that are not there without being mentally ill. But I digress…
In certain situations I hear voices. In others I do not. I have had people become angry (sometimes exceedingly so) with me for not responding when they spoke to me. I’ve been called snobbish, arrogant, stubborn, disobedient, and rude as well as less savory terms. The problem is that unless I know someone is going to speak to me, I may not “hear” them speaking. Oh, I may “hear” noise (in the environmental sense), but it is likely to mean very little to me unless it is a very loud, abrupt noise. Or I may know a specific person is speaking, but have no idea that I’m the intended recipient of the communication so it is still just background noise to me.
On the other hand, in some situations where there is a sudden cessation of background noise or just the right angle of the moon and stars, I can hear something I would normally never be able to hear. Then folks think I am lying about my hearing loss. It begs the question of who would lie about being half-deaf. My daughter used to accuse me of faking being deaf when I would accidentally catch her saying something she should not have been saying. Ah, well, that’s kids for you. I suppose she never toted up the 50 zillion times she got away with saying things I never heard.
If someone wants to talk with any hard of hearing person they need to get the person’s attention first and then speak directly to them. Other than that, it is just a bunch of lip-flapping going on and most of the late deafened figure the lip flapping is not directed at them. Either that or we’re hyper vigilant and figure everything is directed towards us – which is an exhausting experience.
In fact, when I do respond to something I think is being directed at me I’m often not the intended recipient of the communication and what I heard was not what was said. For instance, “Where’s John?” becomes “Where’s Mom?” Then I find out I wasn’t the intended recipient of the question anyway, which confuses matters further. How do “hearies” sort all this out, anyway? I have no idea. Is there a secret handshake or something?
Let’s move on to the issue of words. If I do hear a voice, and I’m engaging in an attempt to hear and understand, we still have the issue of words. I suspect the words “John/Mom” don’t sound alike to hearing folks, but they do to me. Not only is there word confusion, such as when I was a child and thought a cobweb was a cowweb, but even focusing on what is being said, lip-reading with all my might, I often miss entire words or parts of them so that I’m left grasping at verbal straws. Sometimes my brain will fill in the blanks correctly. Sometimes I’ll stop, think about what I believe I heard, then realize it could not be possible, then say, “Eh?” “Excuse me?” “Could you say that again?” “What?” or variations on that theme. I’ve been told I get a blank look as I’m trying to put the words together, which precedes one of three options: a question to clarify, an agreement coupled with a “deaf nod,” or a non sequitur response.
I’ve been known to repeat a sentence to the point of the missing word and then asking the person to spell it if the precise communication is necessary. In professional situations it is often necessary to understand exactly what was said rather than getting an approximation. It is one of the reasons that when using Computer Assisted Realtime Transcription (CART), which uses word modules for Court Reporting, I will go mildly whacko if a word module needed is not on board and a similar, but incorrect, word is substituted. I was once at a deposition with Legal Interpreters and CART where I found I needed BOTH in order to follow what was being asked of the deponent because the CART operator was missing a few words in her modules and the substitutions were nonsensical to me.
I am totally deaf on the left side, like Ms. Bouton. I have a hearing aid for the right side. With my hearing aid I can probably hear as well as a fully hearing person if they have both ears plugged and are trying to hear someone talking to them while they are taking a shower in the bathroom with the door closed. Welcome to my world.
Ms. Bouton comments that dealing with the “hearing impaired” is difficult. I find dealing with the hearing difficult. Just a different perspective, I suppose.