When you’re experiencing hearing loss while trying to communicate, it can be a frustrating experience all round, and in many cases lead to both sides abandoning the conversation entirely to avoid further miscommunication. However, a little understanding can go quite a long way.
We recently asked the followers of our Facebook page to tell us exactly what they wished their friends and family understood about hearing loss.
It’s frustrating for everyone
Ian L states that “Frustration is a two way street.” But getting frustrated doesn’t help anyone. Di A would like her friends to know that the “eye rolling” when you ask for something to be repeated, makes her so upset, that sometimes she just stays home. Ken G says “Showing you’re frustrated makes me want to say nothing.” Trudi-Anne S would like everyone to know “How it is as frustrating for us as it is for them, that we can’t hear them.” Angela M has one request of her friends “Don’t get angry with me, I can’t help it.”
It’s not on purpose
Linda H says “It’s not selective hearing,” and Ken G says “It’s not put on, it’s unfortunately real,” while Mel M would like people to know that it’s “not my fault! I don’t not hear on purpose!” Vicki P adds that she would also like it known “we are not doing it on purpose.” Joanne M also states “I can’t help it. And it saddens me to miss out.” And Gill H says, ”I wish they understood that it’s not my fault.” As Judy M says “People aren’t hard of hearing on purpose.”
It can be embarrassing
Sue B says she finds it embarrassing knowing that people are speaking while only being able to hear mumbled voices, with no idea what people are saying and then having to work hard to understand their conversations.
What it’s like to live with tinnitus
Maxine H told us she wishes people understood that living with tinnitus means that while she can still hear people, thanks to her hearing aid, she can’t understand what they’re saying due to the ringing in her ears. Tinnitus is described as a constant ringing in the ears, like the sound of bells or buzzers. It can cause a lot of annoyance and it’s something that others often don’t understand. Sharron F agrees with Maxine and says, “Yes, most times we can hear you, but have no idea what you saying!” Maxine would like people to know that tinnitus is hard to live with, “People quite often say “Oh yes, l get ringing in my ears too sometimes”. They don’t seem to get it that this is going on 24/7.“
Her solution for managing her tinnitus is “just a matter of trying to turn off and concentrate on outside noises. Over time it’s just part of life and you get used of it.”
It’s important to face the listener
Another common problem articulated by Deborah C was the need for the person speaking to “Please face us when you talk”. Rhonda G concurs and adds that this is almost her largest problem and frustration. She offers the following advice “Face the person who is hard of hearing when speaking to them, understand that background noise can make hearing harder. And be tolerant. We did not choose to have hearing loss. Gill H agrees and says, “Yes, please look at me when you speak.” Ken G adds “Don’t speak to me from the other room and expect me to understand what you just said.” Linda H adds this simple tip, “Don’t talk to the wall when I am there.” Heather C suggests the following “face the person first but speak clearly don’t mumble. Not just louder but clearer.”
There is a big difference between shouting and speaking clearly
When it comes to conducting a proper conversation with someone living with hearing loss, Ian L has this to say, “Get my attention. Speak slowly and clearly. Don’t shout. Be tolerant. Do finish what you started to say, and don’t say ‘Aww, forget it’.”
It can be difficult to socialise
Bev S states that her hearing loss creates a difficulty socialising with family at gatherings. And this can lead to feelings of isolation.
Having hearing loss can feel like being isolated
Sue BW would like her friends to know “How isolating it can be.” She adds, “I don’t mean to speak loudly… I just can’t hear myself either.” Jenny J has a similar experience and states, “sometimes I don’t know that I’m loud-talking.” Chris R agrees and says he finds hearing loss “lonely and isolating.”
You’re not alone
As you can see from the experiences of others, you are not alone. It can be reassuring to know that there are lots of other people facing similar challenges to yourself and their knowledge and life advice can inform how you go about managing your hearing loss.
A commonly repeated theme was one of patience, tolerance and understanding. Bev S would like her friends to include her in their conversations, and have patience. Caitlin G says “I think what gets me the most is that fact that the world is so impatient with things like this.” She states that she doesn’t want to have to ask people to repeat themselves over and over. “I don’t think many understand that I actually have to. The fact that people actually roll their eyes at you when you ask them to repeat themselves is beyond rude!” She goes on to say that it’s unhelpful for people to repeat themselves in the exact same tone and volume several times before finally shouting at her. As Ken G says “Shouting is not the answer.”
Caitlin says she doesn’t have a choice in how she hears, but that others do have a choice in how they interact with her. “It’s something that is a part of me and it’s something that you’ll have to adapt yourself too if you want to stick around.”
People need to be supportive
Having a supportive family and network of friends around you who truly understand what you’re going through can make all the difference in the world. David C says, “I wish they would have been more aggressive in making me understand my hearing was in trouble. However, I can understand why they didn’t/couldn’t.”
This is an important point. Sometimes people in the early stages of experiencing hearing loss may not be as aware of the changes to their hearing as their friends, family and co-workers are of the changes in their behaviour. If you suspect someone you know may be dealing with hearing loss, and not knowing it, you should raise the issue with them Because the sooner they get tested, the better their chances will be of managing their hearing loss in the long term.
Booking an appointment with an audiologist today might be the best thing you could do for your hearing.
We’ll leave the final words for Tara K, who had a lot to say on the subject. “I agree with all of these comments. I was wearing hearing aids & coping quite well after a sudden onset of deafness still no definitive explanation then 3 yrs later woke up with profound hearing loss. Totally gone in both ears. At first people were mostly patient as I was trying to lip-read but struggled with the pace of it. Even when I would point out that I can’t hear someone, or read what they were saying, because they turned their head away from me, they would forget. I would tell them again “Sorry, you turned your back. Can you repeat?” Acknowledged that we are both frustrated but it is what it is. Some family & friends who would chat constantly suddenly didn’t know how to communicate with me or avoided me. Hello, I can still read if you write it down. I now have a cochlear implant & still learning to hear via this wonderful invention & back to the old ways of, as you say, people feeling they need to yell when in fact just slow down & speak clearly & I’ll work it out most of the time. Just had the second ear implanted so hopefully I can hear from both sides. I was always patient with my mum who couldn’t hear very well & just assumed that’s what is required. I learnt who would take the time to repeat & who not to ask to repeat because the response was often “don’t worry about it, it doesn’t matter.” Oh yes, it does. Ever go to a movie and miss the ending and left wondering? That’s how it is for a deaf person. You’re left wondering constantly & feel left out of the conversation. Please be patient, as you never know what is in your future. I realise I could have done it better when I was a hearing person and acknowledge this.”