Opening up on my hearing loss:-
Five years ago, I was diagnosed with quite a severe unexpected hearing loss. It was a shock as I thought I was managing but all my family and friends knew I had a problem. Unfortunately I was the last person to believe it until a hearing assessment revealed a 70 percent hearing loss in both ears. I found it difficult to accept at first and delayed getting hearing aids as I thought this would make my hearing worse. In the end I realised I was unable to function to the best of my ability without some type of hearing device. Life has been better since but even with my hearing aids there are some things which hinder conversations. So, to honour Deaf Awareness week I thought I would put some suggestions together for when you need to communicate with people who have hearing impairment. My tips on communicating with me as experienced by me are:-
Do not mumble speak clearly and concisely but do not shout.
Don’t over emphasise your facial expressions.
Keep your hands away from your mouth as I could automatically be lip reading.
Don’t walk away from me as you start a conversation with me.
Before starting a conversation make sure you have my full attention. Do not try to start a dialogue when lots of other things are happening, I won’t be able to concentrate or hear you.
Don’t start a conversation and put the kettle on or other appliance all I will be able to hear is the appliance noise.
Don’t turn lights off at bed time then try to talk to me in the dark, I won’t be able to hear you, I will have taken my hearing aids out and it will be too dark for me to see your lips to read them!!
When I am tired it will be more difficult for me to hear. I have to concentrate really hard so please be patient with me.
Wearing hearing aids can help but it can also be really draining so please understand when all I want at night time is silence.
Please let me have the subtitles on even if it bothers you as I might just want quiet time after a hard day. No voices in my head.
In a Drs surgery or hospital waiting room don’t put the chairs miles away from where the drs will come out to call my name. I won’t be able to hear.
If you are talking to me on a mobile please do not put me on loudspeaker or even worse be driving. I won’t be able to hear! All I will hear is the background noise and our conversation will make me very stressed.
Please please do not call me on the phone and carry on with your housework or washing pots all I will hear is running gushing water and crinkle crackle sounds!! Worst of all don’t start eating your favourite flavour crisps!!
Having a conversation with me through a closed door will not work! Are you listening kids?
When you come into house come and find me and tell me you are home safe otherwise I won’t have heard you come in and you will give me a big fright when you make me jump out of my skin because I didn’t think anyone was home.
Oh yes and nearly forgot, if you are a passenger in my car please be patient I will more than likely not change gears as fast as you do because I won’t hear the engine, and yes I can look at revs, but I have to concentrate so hard on all the other stimuli around me I do sometimes keep it in the wrong gear for an endless amount of time! Don’t get cross just put your hand over mine on the gear stick and remind me nicely it’s time to go up a notch!
So this is my experience of the last 5 years of living with deafness. Life can be difficult because of it at times and I do find some things hard to deal with as I imagine others with hearing impairment do also. What we really need to help is an understanding of how best to communicate with us. Simple small things can really help.
I have never highlighted my hearing loss and with family and friends I even laugh and make a joke about it but it does sometimes upset me. I hide it as much as I possibly can but I have opened myself up in this blog as if I can raise awareness of how to communicate with me then it might just help one other person in their life who has hearing impairment and they will struggle less.
I don’t want pity. I don’t want accolade I just want awareness.
Mother of 2
Director of Open Wings
Shared Lives Carer