May is National Hearing and Speech Month. I never really paid attention to this until I became personally acquainted with hearing loss myself.
It happened so gradually that I didn’t notice until the symptoms were pretty severe. When I finally took a hearing test 30% of the hearing in my left ear was already gone. Meniere’s Disease was robbing me of my hearing. (I will write more about this awful disease another day).
At first, I made a joke out of it. My family and I would laugh when I repeated what I thought I’d heard (and how far it was from what was actually said). My co-workers would laugh when they’d call my name and I would freeze and slowly turn in a circle until I could locate them (I had also lost the direction of sound).
But as time went on, and I lost more and more hearing, it just wasn’t funny anymore. Sitting in the booth for my last hearing test, I wondered when the tech would finally start. When I realized she already had, I wanted to cry. Almost all of the hearing in my left ear was gone.
Losing your hearing is frustrating, lonely, and very tiring. Although I only have mild hearing loss in my right ear (praise God) I still have to struggle to hear. I have to figure out unheard words by the context of sentences. I have to read lips. I have to turn my good ear towards the speaker. I can’t take communication for granted anymore, I have to work hard at it.
Sadly, hearing aids are not an option for me. As soon as I place one in my ear, vertigo hits and I am rendered unable to function (another fine result of Meniere’s Disease). So, I am stuck in limbo, halfway between the deaf and hearing world. I am unable to function fully in either world.
I do have some wonderful people in my life who are used to my hearing loss. They automatically stay on my “good” side when we walk and they sit on my right side at restaurants. They fill in words for me when they see me looking confused and they gently touch my arm if I am unaware that someone is speaking to me. I appreciate their loving care so much.
Here are some hints for those of you who have hard of hearing people in your lives:
- I may appear rude. I promise, I’m not. I just didn’t hear you.
- If you are calling my name, wave a bit too. I can’t tell the direction a sound is coming from.
- Please don’t turn away while you speak.
- And, please don’t speak in soft, whispered tones.
- If I appear bored and uninterested in your conversation, it is because I can’t hear you and I am tired of trying.
- If I am cranky and snap at you, I am most likely feeling lost and lonely.
Do you have a hearing impaired person in your life? Or, are you hard of hearing yourself? What tips and tricks do you use? I can use all the help I can get!