What was an enjoyable and perfectly normal experience can quickly turn into something very different. So, what do you do if you haven’t quite gained the confidence with your hearing loss?
Whether you’ve worn hearing aids for a while or are new to them, the storyline is likely all too familiar. Perhaps part of the problem comes with age, not that being older means anything, but perceptions can be all too full of expectations, which often have little or nothing to do with reality.
Now, I have to say that this doesn’t happen with everyone, most people are oblivious of the deaf equation, providing the aids are small, and, let’s face it, unless we happen to have kept some from the ’70s or ’80s, hearing aids these days are nothing, if not discreet.
But, there will come a time when, maybe at a checkout counter at a store or at a bar with a new friend, you’re enjoying small talk and then you move your head slightly and they catch sight of the beast, or in our case, the hearing aid.
Almost at once the conversation dies. It doesn’t slowly fade, it just vanishes. Anything said after this point is little more than a series of short sharp staccato questions, usually shouted by the other person and accompanied by dramatically rounded mouth shapes.
There really is no point attempting to explain that you can hear them just fine, because once things reached this stage, there really is no going back. For some strange reason as soon as someone comes to the conclusion concerning someone’s perceived disability, it becomes set in stone, as far as they are concerned.
The only sensible thing to do is try to get the deed over with as quickly as possible and move on with your day. Because of this stigma, is it any wonder that so many people choose to not wear their hearing aids and simply muddle through conversations?
Wearing hearing aids can be viewed as a brave act, something only done by those courageous enough to withstand the misunderstanding, odd looks and sometimes very real possibility of being ignored altogether.
“Wearing hearing aids can be viewed as a brave act…”
We must be confident to achieve this, but where does this leave those less confident hard of hearing people?
Read more: How to live confidently with hearing loss
If we are not careful we might easily assume that if we are shy and something of a homebody that we perhaps shouldn’t bother wearing hearing aids at all. With this way of thinking it is almost like adding insult to injury.
Of course, when we look at the situation in this way it is absurd to think that we should allow the opinions and actions of other people’s misunderstanding affect the way we live our daily lives, but isn’t that what mainstream society does in general, telling all those who listen, what to eat, drink, how to look and what is and is not normal?
“…it is absurd to think that we should allow the opinions and actions of other people’s misunderstanding affect the way we live our daily lives”
As a hard of hearing person, we have a weakness in our hearing, which we may address by using hearing aids. This is no different than those who wear glasses to correct an eyesight issue, or someone using a walking stick for assistance in being able to walk better.
It wasn’t so long ago that those who wore glasses were victims of ignorance and social, as well as media bullying, thankfully this has now become a thing of the past and in fact, people often consider glasses as something of a fashion statement.
Given time and effort hearing aids will also achieve this, perhaps not being seen as a fashion statement, that might just be pushing things a little too far, but certainly, hearing aids being looked at as normal and every day should become the norm in the not too distant future.
This, of course, will only happen if enough of us are prepared to stand up and be counted, which means having confidence with hearing loss. It is a part of the human condition that most people dislike standing out from the crowd and instead prefer to blend in and become invisible, doing, saying and acting in accord with standard behaviors set down in unwritten, unspoken assumed agreements.
“This of course will only happen if enough of us are prepared to stand up and be counted”
When someone stands out, even slightly, that person will often feel self-conscious and vulnerable, even if it’s because of a small thing, such as a hearing aid. We can blame our ancestors for that, most people still have something of the herd mentality where perceived survival is concerned, yes, even when considered consciously it makes no sense to think that way anymore.
This may all sound like so much doom and gloom, but it needn’t be like this. Hard of hearing people need to stand together, just like other crusaders down the years who fought for change in mainstream society, so we need to become that change. Wearing our hearing aids first for our own hearing benefits and secondly for the greater good of all those other who suffer with hearing loss.
“We must wear our hearing aids first for our own hearing benefits and secondly for the greater good of all those other who suffer with hearing loss.”
We need to educate hearing society and I think we all know that the only way to do that is one person at a time. And, we can’t educate by being defensive, angry or evasive. We must fight ignorance with a smile, battle perceptions with tact and overcome unjust behavior by being, just, kind, thoughtful and caring.
In short, we must become the change we want. We can only make changes if we are the brave ones, And, not by making bold statements and shouting the loudest, but instead by being as smart and as capable as we are able to be, in short by being ourselves, because we are so perfectly equipped to do this.
The next time you catch someone noticing your hearing aid, smile at them. If you feel confident enough mention that you wear one and how fantastic the new technology is, tell them it’s like a tiny computer and so loud and clear. Make them a part of your wearing it experience.
Hearing people, on the whole, are no different than we are, but they are nervous, even scared sometimes of how they should act around those with hearing problems. Our job, should we choose to accept it, is to be kind and show them that we can communicate pretty well most of the time. If I’m at my club and changing into my sports gear and happen to notice someone glancing across as I take out my hearing aids, I always smile and mention how tiny they are. I’ll strike up a conversation about technology and my own hearing, loss and gain through aids.
It is surprising how many seriously great conversations I have had, and continue to have, on this subject. Many people mention their own hearing, often asking advice. Some talk about loved ones, family members and friends. I find it’s a subject which the majority of hearing people find themselves unable to talk about, without encouragement.
I will be completely honest in the beginning I felt self-conscious. I even tried sneaking out my hearing aids, which just made people wonder what I was up to, and made me feel terrible. These days I have confidence with hearing loss and am proud to be flying the hard of hearing flag. I am always happy to strike up a conversation about the subject anytime and anywhere.
Why not try to also become the change we all so desperately want and society needs, even if it doesn’t realize it at this time. We can only become that lasting change by living it.
How do you talk to people about your hearing loss? How have you gained your confidence with hearing loss? Let us know in the comments!