“Excuse me for asking… I know you said you had hearing loss but does your partner have hearing loss too because he seems to be really struggling to follow the conversation?”
Gulp. He doesn’t — or rather ‘didn’t’ have hearing loss — not in the sense of having it confirmed by a professional but yes, whilst away on this particular trip we had both noticed how hard he was finding it to follow what was being said, especially when we were sitting in a group.
As we were on a small cruise ship, mingling with other guests was not exactly optional — and we met some lovely people so the mingling was great in that respect — but my partner was really struggling because of the background noise — the hum of the engines and the general chatter. It started to get him down and I noticed him spending more time reading or taking photographs than chatting to other people.
I asked if this was because of the trouble he was having and he said that is was. I empathised. Let’s face it, he’s seen me in this position many times before and he’s been there for me. He is usually my ears. So we tried to come up with some strategies about the best places to sit, how many people to talk to at a time (‘two’ being preferable to a group and one person being even better still) and so things improved for him a bit.
He was not the only guest on-board to be struggling and while I’d only noticed one other person with a hearing aid (and, like Stéphane, I’ve become pretty adept at spotting them), I’d noticed many people not being able to follow the on-board announcements. The morning briefings in the restaurant were followed by murmurs of, “What did he say?”; “What time are we leaving?”; “Did he say we were to take our swimming things or ‘not’ to take them?” etc.
Ironically (given the level of my deafness), my partner often resorted to asking me what people we saying – but, there’s the rub – because of my lip-reading skills and the ‘Speech in noise’ setting on my Phonaks, I was better able than many others to know what was being said. Having said that, I would still have preferred a written briefing sheet or a poster I could read.
Each day, once we’d disembarked to explore another exciting island paradise, my partner was more relaxed and he was able to join in the conversations more easily. I then took a break from all the ‘listening’ and enjoyed the opportunity to spend a bit of time without my Phonaks in. You know what it’s like when you’re somewhere hot and humid – I won’t go into detail but suffice to say that letting the air circulate is bliss! I sunbathed in silence and enjoyed the views and a good book. It was only when we went on a trek or a tour that I popped them back in.
Cruises are well-known for appealing to older people and, as we know, the prevalence of hearing loss amongst the population increases then due to the onset of presbyacusis. UK estimates show 42% of people over 50 have some degree of hearing loss and 6.3 million of the estimated 10 million people in the UK who have hearing loss are retirement age (65+) (source: Action on Hearing Loss). Therefore, I’d be interested to know, if you’ve been on a cruise:
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