Phonak
logo

Social gatherings & other noisy get togethers.

There’s one thing that often struck terror in my heart when I was a teenager: social gatherings.
I was actually a very outgoing teen but, in group situations, I became a social hermit. One night, a bunch of friends urged me to go out on the boat with them in the middle of the lake—at night. I tried to excuse my way out of it, but my friends would have no part of it.

Inside, my heart was beating like crazy, because I knew that it was impossible to lip-read in the pitch-black darkness. I spent the entire night sitting in the corner of the boat, feeling quite sorry for myself. My well-meaning friends tried to help. Someone found a flashlight, but the bouncing light and shadows did little to improve the situation.

I’m sure most of you who have hearing issues can relate to my teenage distaste for a game I called, “social ping pong.” You know how that goes — you start off following one conversation, but then another person joins in. Then, just when you figure out the topic and context, someone else jumps in. Toss in some laughter, a little background noise, and bodies shifting in different directions – and you’ve lost the entire thread of the conversation. Worse, perhaps you never got any of it to begin with.

Along with “social ping pong,” comes “social bluffing.” Social bluffing is pretending to hear or understand something that is being said, and behaving in a way that indicates you understand, even when you have little or no clue as to what is being said. And as a teenager, I was the Queen of Social Bluffing. I’d toss in a thoughtful nod in mid-conversation and I made sure to laugh when everyone else laughed.

Here’s what I know now. When it comes to playing the game of social bluffing, no one wins. Both parties lose out; the deaf or hard of hearing person misses out on conversation, and the hearing person never learns adaptive strategies to assist in better communication.

Acceptance leads to advocacy

After I became deaf at the age of nineteen, an ironic thing happened: I became more assertive about my communication needs. Before that could happen, however, I had to get into a place where I was really comfortable with myself, and willing to explain my communication needs. I also had to shift my perspective, because communication is a two-way street. What fun is it to have a one-sided conversation, or none at all, because you’re trying to bluff your way through it?

What it comes down to is this: you’re the only one who knows what’s truly needed to make communication happen.

I was fortunate to grow up in a family with five generations of folks with all different degrees of hearing loss. I say fortunate, because we all learned how to take turns during group gatherings and slow down the ping pong game.

My husband, who is also deaf, grew up in a family with five boys who could all hear. He was sometimes left out of the fast-paced conversations, or someone had to summarize the conversations for him. When I first began to go out to lunch with my mother-in-law and my sisters-in-law, I had to outline the communication strategies for me to be included in every conversation. It works, because I don’t miss out on any conversation that flows during our lunches—unless they unknowingly slip into old habits. All it takes is for me to ask them to rephrase or summarize, and then we get back on track again.

Hear are some communication tips you might want to consider implementing:

  • Know Thyself: If you’re not comfortable with every aspect of your hearing loss, now’s the time to get comfortable. You cannot effectively assert your communication needs until you find a way to be at peace with the fact that you are deaf or hard of hearing. Seek out a mentor who can help you work through this process. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Be Proactive: Figure out what you need to change in your surroundings to meet your communication needs. Move to the front of the room, the back of the room, or outside, etc. Move away from the glare of a window. Request brighter lighting in a dim room. Ask people to face you or speak a bit louder. Ask yourself, what can be changed in this situation to improve my communication access?
  • Request communication devices, services, or interpreters in advance.
  • Be innovative: Use an iPad or phone to ask someone to type out a word or summary in group events.

What it comes down to is this: you’re the only one who knows what’s truly needed to make communication happen and it’s up to you to educate others about your communication needs.

Editorial Staff
I work at Phonak and write for HearingLikeMe.com.

22
Leave a Reply

avatar
22 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
20 Comment authors
EddyJMarkMishkoFredCaptainSherri LynneDiamond Recent comment authors
  Subscribe  
newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Diamond
Guest
Diamond
I can totally relate to this topic 100%
Sandra676
Guest
Sandra676
If there was a device that translated ASL into text would that be helpful when trying to speak to someone who is hearing????
Papa Stelma
Guest
Papa Stelma

Thanks Karen, what a great article. I especially like the “know thyself” advice. But I also think that knowing the situations you can be successful in is also important. I consider myself reasonably assertive when it comes to my hearing loss, but there are still some situations that are just too demanding. Eg loud noisy bars with a large group. Its is just too hard. But if I am in a smaller group of 2 others, my FM technology is quite helpful. So it is not that I am unnecesarily shying away from certain sitations, I just know it will… Read more »

Samcharita
Guest
Samcharita
Hi! I am somewhat socialize around people. I wasn’t so comfortable with people whom might not comfortable with me or talk to me. My bigger fear of myself that I don’t know how or what I need to do to make other people to more comfortable with me as a human being person.
DeafMom
Guest
DeafMom

Papa, thanks for sharing. The challenging situations are especially daunting! I always weigh the pros and cons of each– can I do one-on-one situations, can I get others to adapt their communication so we can connect, can I use alternative means to communication in that situation, etc. I always try to find creative ways to connect– for example, if I’m in a large group situation without an interpreter, I usually can find someone who is willing to summarize for me or type things out on a laptop. But also, like you said, there are some situations I will choose not… Read more »

Streamer
Guest
Streamer

For someone with good low frequency hearing but not so good mid frequencies and poor high frequency hearing it’s not speaking louder that helps it’s speaking clearly that does the trick. With my hearing loss I have the volume of what is being said, but what I am missing is the clarity part of the equation. For all of us with hearing loss though noisy social gatherings effects us the same, namely the noise drowns out what is being said. For years I too was really good at social bluffing or the other end of social bluffing that is thinking… Read more »

LitlOne23
Guest
LitlOne23

I am 31, I have worked for the same company my entire adult career and I am in the middle of what feels like a disaster. I have relocated to assist with a company project, but much of this entails community involvement and networking with new people. I also moved to the south from the north where the slang and accent is different. I have recently realized I am (as mentioned above) full of anxiety. I met with an audiologist who helped me try out some different hearing aids, but all of them sounded so bad like I was in… Read more »

DeafMom
Guest
DeafMom

LitiOne23, There are some things you can first do to assert yourself and your communication needs on the job. Be up front about your needs and what your coworkers can do to bridge communication. If you can become comfortable with your hearing loss, you can succeed in any career. It does take some time to get used to hearing aids and after a while, the brain usually adapts to the sound. However, I do have some friends who have tried different aids for a while and did not get used to it. Everyone is different. Fortunately today, there are so… Read more »

CaroleC
Guest
CaroleC

Thank you, Karen, For bringing awareness to how the Hearing can help in the communication process with those that have that as a challenge. I wouldn’t think twice to jump in and help someone who is on crutches or in a wheelchair, open a door, or get something off a store shelf. Its nice to get some practical suggestions on how to better communicate with those with hearing loss. Who knows it could be ME someday! I have a hard time with conversations in a noisy environment now. I found myself nodding with a beginning of understanding. Wow. I’ve played… Read more »

foxbend
Guest
foxbend

I wear two earring aids and cannot hear anything in a group of people or those people who love to talk in a low soft tone . this makes me feel bad as I have to ask them to repeat or raise their voice so I can understand what they are saying this is very difficult at work . I avoid social gatherings or groups of people as I or its no use to try and understand what is being said it’s a guessing game all the time or i just sit quitely and not say or respond to anything… Read more »

lisadawn
Guest
lisadawn

Thank you for this article. I nearly cried! its the first time i have ever read anything that relates so well to my experience in a social situation! its exhausting! half the time I “social bluff” as people just cant understand! no matter how you try to explain- I can be more assertive generally in social situations that have my friends and family in- but when there is new people etc this is where problems oocur- I dont want to not ever meet new people! life is full of opportunities- i just dont know how to manage these things better… Read more »

The Man From Bear River
Guest
The Man From Bear River

I will be honest. Despite the limitations and side affects of Hearing Aids I did well with many, but not all social situations. I over performed, I always have over performed and one of the side affects is that people do not realize how severe my hearing disability is. My competence masks but does not compensate for my hearing loss. So I believe that many high achieving hard of hearing and deaf people have that dastardly side affect of competence masking the severity of our hearing challenges. So when we clang – we clang! The higher you go with competence,… Read more »

Sherri Lynne
Guest
Sherri Lynne

I avoid socializing for a lot of reasons one as toddler I would not socialize I was off in a space by myself I withdrew as I got older I never changed in school I was and still am a book worm. While in school if I went missing all anyone had to do was look in the library. I hate socializing with people face to face. I am not people smart. When I was 13 I taught myself sign language and to lip read I did not know why but sign language fascinated me. Just before I started highschool… Read more »

beenthere
Guest
beenthere
I rely heavily on lip reading in social situtions, because the surrounding noise level makes it difficult to hear clearly. I may interrupt the speaker and say: say it again? in order to catch the gist of the conversation. Once you have that it becomes much easier. Having worn a hearing aid for 60 some years, makes me an expert and yet I still have problems.
blondie
Guest
blondie
Thanks for the advise. Im still in middle school and i try to not tell people that im deaf in one ear or theyll treat me like a freak. You know they talk all slow like im a baby. Im the one who , during conversations , nods and smiles and laughs like i know whats going one. I usually ask the word ” what ” 3 times before i give up.
FredCaptain
Guest
FredCaptain
here is my number (832) 301-8745 if you need help on anything or mail me on mikealfred14@gmail.com
MarkMishko
Guest
MarkMishko
test
EddyJ
Guest
EddyJ

Thank you! Most of the the time I am “social bluff” where i just laugh along with them when they laughs! It’s really annoying and exhausted to be fake!. And if I am Aloof, they called me that I’m snobbish saying that I don’t engage much and really ignored me! They have been time where voices arrive even from behind which it is impossible to be an owl and in that they don’t consider in group assignment. Most of the time I have do indiviually rather than group and they sometimes disgards me off as an outcast due to language… Read more »

lhcnerissa
Guest
lhcnerissa
It feels quite good to know that there are others like me. Karen’s article sums up most of the problems I’ve got, in which the worst is Social Bluffing. I will try hard to change my old habits and using your advices. Thanks a lot.
durnhamd
Guest
durnhamd
I find large groups make my head spin. It sounds as if noise is coming from every direction. I,also, have trouble with deep low voices. I know the person has said something but I have no clue what{ my husband}. I nod and smile
thedeafme
Guest
thedeafme
thank you for the article Karen I can totally relate to social bluffing! since becoming deaf I avoid social gatherings as much as possible it’s really difficult and I end up feeling left out and alone in a crowded room
DeafMom
Guest
DeafMom
Thanks for sharing, Carole! Love your last line!

© 2018 Phonak AG. All rights reserved.