The Scene: In a salon, a woman sits down in a chair, removing the towel from her wet hair. She puts her hearing aids back in and looks at herself in the mirror, chatting to the stylist.
Tell me honestly, do my hearing aids show? I mean, like a lot?
I know I’ve always worn my hair long to cover my big ones – my big hearing aids, I mean. They felt like two huge satellite dishes on the sides of my head, and people would stare, you know? Well, it felt like they were staring; I guess sometimes it was just me being insecure – but other times they were definitely staring.
Even with these new smaller ones, some people aren’t too subtle – and I’m not talking children, I mean adults. Children are more honest. They stare, but then they’ll point and say ‘what’s that?’ But adults – they stare and then pretend they’re not looking. Then I have to pretend I don’t see them looking and let me tell you, all that pretending gets exhausting – and embarrassing.
I don’t know why I get embarrassed, I just do. Or I end up embarrassing Jake, my son.
OK, I get that all his friends were in McDonald’s and no one likes to be singled out at that age – but it was just so noisy and I couldn’t understand the cashier. She got tired of repeating herself, I guess, but did she have to bellow like a bull, “Your COFFEE, ma’am! What do you WANT IN IT!?”
That was not my fault. And in church yesterday…I mean, how was I supposed to know my battery was going to die? That’s what batteries do, they die – that’s what keeps the battery companies in business. So I take out my hearing aid and once I’ve got the new battery in, the little sucker drops to the floor and rolls under the pew! I had to get on my knees to reach for it. As I fumbled to get it back in, the feedback was screaming blue murder and I thought I’d die of embarrassment. There was not a lot of ‘love thy neighbor’ going on, I’ll tell you that. Some of those church people weren’t giving me their Sunday-best look.
I always seem to be feeling embarrassed – or left out or ignored. I hate that too. You’d think that friends you’ve had for years would understand that you can’t follow conversations in noisy restaurants. But oh no, they just keep yapping away without me. And you’d think a certain husband could watch the hockey game with the closed captioning on. It does not cover up the puck and even if it did, it’s only for one second out of a season that lasts nine months. Well, not this year, I guess…
You know, I’m just so damn tired of all of that….and I’ve made a decision.
I am just not going to put up with it anymore. I am not going to turn into that old hard of hearing woman who sits in the corner at family events, the one smiling dimly, nodding, saying the wrong things at the wrong time, or just “Eh, what’s that, eh?”
That is not going to be me! I need and want to understand, to be involved in what’s going on. So, I’m gonna start changing how I do things, you know?
Yeah, I’m gonna start wearing my hearing aids – all the time. And if people stare – I’ll just stare right back at ‘em!
And if people don’t face me when we’re talking, I’m gonna spin them around.
I’m going to tell them when I can’t hear them – and they darn well better speak up and not even dare to say, “oh, never mind, it was nothing”. If they said it once, it must be worth repeating. If not, don’t say it, period.
And from now on when I’m in the TV room, that captioning is ON!
I’m gonna tell people what I need and if someone snaps at me, it’s them who should be embarrassed, not me. I’m not being difficult, I just want to understand – that’s fair, isn’t it?
I’m gonna tell the bank people to look at me, not the computer! I’ll show you the money – you show me the lips!
I’m gonna tell movie theatres that if they want my business, then give me captioning! And if they keep it up with these loud movies, pretty soon everybody’s going to need the captioning!
I’m gonna tell the church that if they want me to hear the Word, they better say it louder. How about installing a loop? I mean, let’s loop everything!
I’m gonna tell the flight attendant that I don’t have a clue what the pilot is saying over the PA, so she’ll have to come tell me. Otherwise, I may assume the worst and become hysterical.
I’m gonna tell my boss that if he wants a job well done, I need a phone well amplified!
I’m gonna tell the doctor that I would feel a whole lot better if I could understand what he was saying.
And I’m gonna tell my family – I love you to the moon and back, but that trip would be a whole lot sweeter if you wouldn’t talk to me from another room, or roll your eyes when I say the wrong thing. We’re in this together.
I am NEVER going to sit in that corner. My ’ears’ are in and I am looking into the face of the world and I am saying: Bring it on, world, because I’m LISTENING!
Oh my, wow – I really did get going there, didn’t I, dear? But I meant what I said – this starts today, now, here. So cut my hair, darling, and this time cut it short around the ears – because I’ve got nothing to hide.
(Originally posted at HealthyHearingMatters.org)
Gael Hannan spends most of every day focusing on Eyes, Ears and Lips. Wherever she goes and whatever she does, she uses her eyes-ears-and-lips to connect with the eyes-ears-and-lips of others. Her goal is simple to communicate well, even with her severe hearing loss.
Gael is a Canadian hearing health advocate who believes that hearing loss has no borders. She is passionate about the need for society to recognize the impact of hearing loss on its people – and for those same people to take responsibility for their own good communication.
Telling stories is the basis of Gael’s work, and her humorous and knowledgeable writing about the hearing loss life has gained her a wide following. She writes the Better Hearing Consumer weekly blog for the prominent HearingHealthMatters.org website, and consumer columnist for the Canadian Hearing Report. She developed employment manuals for the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and The Canadian Hearing Society, as well as the Hearing Foundation of Canada’s Sound Sense hearing loss prevention program for elementary school students.
Gael is a sought-after speaker for her witty and insightful performances, including Unheard Voices and EarRage!, award-winning solo shows that illuminate the profound impact of hearing loss on a person’s life which Gael presents to audiences across North America. She serves on the national board of the Canadian Hard of Hearing Association and is a recipient of the Consumer Advocacy Award from the Canadian Association of Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists.
Gael Hannan lives in Toronto with her husband (who has turned into an excellent communicator) and her son (who is now 16 and who no longer asks permission to do anything).