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Could you repeat that? Finding humor in hearing loss

humor in hearing loss

Life is full of humor, and it plays such a huge part in mine that I would be completely lost without it.

In fact, without my sense of fun, at times I think I would be totally speechless because of my love of puns, jokes, and one-liners. Yet I’ve observed that some people are almost afraid to embrace the humor in hearing loss.

I was an entertainer for 25 years, which included being part of a comedy duo doing stand up across the UK. This seems like a lifetime ago now, and it was 30 years or so before my hearing loss. Losing my hearing has in no way changed my personality, and it shouldn’t change yours either.

Laughter is good for the soul

If you enjoy good-natured well-intentioned humor, that’s great, because nothing on earth will help you get through the bad hearing loss days the way a good laugh will.

“…nothing on earth will help get you through the bad hearing loss days the way a good laugh will.”

When I think about humor and hearing loss, one thing always come to mind that never fails to make me smile. It’s a scene from a 1970s British sitcom called “Fawlty Towers” in which an old woman with severe hearing loss is doing battle with the hotel owner, played by John Cleese.

The episode in question was aptly titled “Communication Problems.” After many misunderstandings, Mrs. Richards reveals that she doesn’t like turning her hearing aid on because it wears down the batteries. It is truly a classic comedy moment, only made possible because of her deafness.

In my own life and in my own experiences with hearing loss, I have had many comedic scenes, not by design or good scripting, but by pure chance. The number of times I have misheard something and suffered the consequences have been the source of much amusement. In my family, it has become something of a standing joke and at times the comic in me finds it impossible not to milk it just a little – okay, a lot.

Humor really does make you feel good and also happens to be contagious – like yawning, only more fun. This is why stand up is so popular, as it involves someone else observing something amusing that other people find they too can relate.

Humor puts people at ease

Many hearing people feel awkward around those with hearing loss, which can be uncomfortable for all concerned. However, try injecting a little fun into that particular equation and watch the difference.

I joke easily with strangers; it’s the way I choose to break the ice and I’m good at it, though I did have a lot of practice. Stand up comedian D.J. Demers is the same way. Not so long ago HearingLikeMe followed his tour. D.J.Demers, also known as “the hearing aid guy,” has been doing stand up since 2009 and fully embraces the humor in hearing loss.

The following quote will give you an idea of what I’m talking about. This comes from an incident which happened to Demers:

“I was performing, [and] the battery in my right hearing aid died. First, I heard the warning beeps. I tried to plow through, but within 10 minutes the hearing aid was completely dead. For the first time in my comedy career, I had to make a battery change onstage in the middle of my set. It was actually a lot of fun. After I shut the battery door, I even had the students join me in counting down the seconds before my hearing aid turned back on. “

Now, that is certainly something I can relate to. You know what it’s like. You arrange to go out for the evening, having stayed home for the last three weeks. An hour into your evening and your hearing aid beeps for a battery change, only you forgot to bring the battery. This happens to me all the time and for some really strange reason, only at important times. It’s as if the universe likes to humble us when we least expect it.

Mind you, we should expect it, shouldn’t we? I mean, if anything involves technology, shouldn’t we at the very least be prepared for trouble? Nonetheless, it took me a long time to start carrying spare batteries with me when I go out. In the meantime, you just have to laugh.

Deaf jokes

It is said that good humor is relatable; hearing loss challenges must certainly live up to that standard. Here are some jokes I have picked up during the last couple of years. See if they resonate with you too.

  • A man was bragging about his new hearing aid and how great it was and how well he could hear with it. His friend asked, “What kind is it?” The man responded, “12:30.”
  • “Thank you for shouting,” said no deaf person ever.
  • “What do we want?” “Hearing Aids.” “When do we want them?” “Hearing aids.”

These may not be the world’s most amusing jokes, but I hope they get the message across in a lighthearted way.

Humor is important and to assume that because someone has a communication issue, they can’t understand whether a thing is funny or not is insulting. Yet there are hearing people who think just like this. It is like those well-educated people who will offer Braille to deaf people, assuming somehow that it will be of use.

I hope that last line raised a smile, or at the very least, an eyebrow because it happens to be true. For some hearing people, deaf stands for different. They really do not get that a person is a person is, well, I’m sure you can guess the rest.

Funny things hearing people say

To finish off these thoughts, we’ll look at some of the funny things hearing people say or do on the subject of, well, you know… If those hearing people could only see themselves through our eyes as they shout at us because they’ve just glimpsed a hearing aid, or speak super-slowly, because we all know how much that helps us to understand them.

What about when they say, “You don’t look deaf?” My personal favorite is when they exclaim, “Wow you can talk!”

It really all comes down to education. Mainstream society is simply unaware of what hearing loss actually means. Isn’t it time we showed that we too can roll with the punches?

Does humor help you with your hearing loss? Let us know in the comments.

Author Details
Phonak hEARo, Phil is an actor, writer and journalist who writes in the deaf WellBeing and Lifestyle areas. He lives on the beautiful North Yorkshire coast with his wife Raine and their three children. Phil was diagnosed in 2016 and has moderate to severe Sensorineural hearing loss in both ears and constant tinnitus. He uses Phonak silver Nathos Auto M hearing aids. Member DANC (Disabled Artists Networking Community)