Start your conversation about hearing loss
Human beings are always looking for shortcuts — faster ways to do or say things. The Australians have always done it; they say brekkie for breakfast, arvo for afternoon, even littlies for little ones (children).
Personally, I would like to find a way to shorten the convo (conversation) that I have almost every day that tells people that a) I have hearing loss, b) the way you’re talking right now is not working for me, c) here’s what I need you to do and, finally, d) thank you (and hopefully you’ll remember it the next time someone says pardon more than once).
Because we people with hearing loss look like any random person — except those of us, perhaps, who choose to wear flashing cochlear implant magnets or nose jewelry made out of used hearing aid batteries — we are continually describing our condition and needs to people who don’t know us.
Not that I resent this. If I’m in the right mood and you’ve displayed at least a glint of interest in the topic — I’ll drill your feet to the floor with everything you did or didn’t want to know about hearing loss. But some days I would like people to take the hint and respond to the first possibility of hearing loss, for example pardon or would you repeat that¸ with a show of good communication. Regardless of whether a person has hearing loss, if someone asks you to repeat yourself, all you need to do is get eye contact, raise your voice even slightly and clearly repeat what you said.
No questions asked.
Because I know that is not likely to happen, I initiate the convo which, at a grocery store, might go something like this.
“I didn’t catch that, would you mind repeating yourself, I have hearing loss.”
“Oh I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. How much do I owe you?”
“Umm, I think I asked you if you wanted bags.”
“Oh, yes please. How much?”
“Haven’t rung it through yet.”
“Ok, when you do, just face me, I read lips.”
“No problem. Uh. THAT. WILL. BE. THIRTY-NINE DOLLARS. AND. FIFTY CENTS!
How great would it be to shrink this conversation which plays out countless times in the average hard of hearing person’s day? How much easier it would be to deal with an informed sales staff — oh, let’s dream big — an entire general population that understand our needs. Just as people who use wheelchairs may need a little more space in which to operate and people with low vision may need a gentle hand at the elbow, people who say pardon and who thrust their ear ever so slightly towards the speaker, may need eye-to-eye communication with words that are delivered clearly and naturally — which is simply good communication practice for anyone — with perhaps a little extra volume added to the mix.
The short convo: “Would you mind repeating that?” “Not at all. Would you like bags?”
But until that day comes, I will just keep spilling the hearing loss beans to keep the conversations moving.
Gael Hannan writes a weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org and recently published a book, “The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss”, available from online retailers.