Wednesday, January 2, 2019

I Have an Unseen Disability

I'm deaf. Or, rather, the more accurate terms - hearing-impaired or hard of hearing.

But, yes, we do fall under the category of hearing loss disability.

Very few of us sign. My less-impaired daughter is a hearing interpreter (probably a little rusty now - it's been a couple of years since she worked in that field). She had friends with hearing disabilities, and, for a time, attended St. Augustine Church in Cleveland, OH, at which the mass was both spoken and signed.

Even with that level of help in functioning, she found it immeasurably helpful to get hearing aids. Her hearing loss is mild, about 10-15%, but, as both a teacher, and in her work in community theater and singing, having them was quite helpful.

Too many people wait too long to get the assistance. The longer you wait, the more cognitive function you loose, and the less you will get out of having hearing aids. I have a sister who is quite impaired, due both to family heritage, and to a bout with parotoid cancer. She waited almost 10 years too late to get her first hearing aids, making the adjustment more difficult.

The New York Times has a very good article about hearing loss. I'd recommend reading it (as it is early in the month, you can likely get it free).

Things you can do to help:

  • Encourage them to get tested. Hearing loss sneaks up on a lot of us. By the time we finally get tested, we have lost a significant amount of our hearing. A good way to do this is to get YOUR hearing checked, and bring them along. Let their natural curiosity about the process lead them to try it themselves. And, you may find out that YOU have some loss, as well.
  • Reduce the unneeded sounds in your environment - background atmospheric music is one of the worst. It makes it very hard to focus on what is being said. Others are noisy appliances, TVs, video games, and multiple activities going on at once.
  • Look at them. In a crowded environment, it can be hard to follow a roving conversation (think holiday dinners). Seat them for most central participation. Recognize that, however much their disability is accommodated, it can still be exhausting to keep up that intense level of attention. Have some activities that don't require constant swiveling around to try to keep up with the conversation. We had a ball with Relative Insanity this Christmas - good for a wide range of ages.
  • Protect the hearing you have - when doing yardwork, use those big hearing protectors. Use earplugs, at least, at noisy events and concerts. Periodically check your noise level with a decibel meter (you can download an OK meter for your phone). You would be surprised just how loud it is in your home.
  • Get into the habit of using closed-captions on your TV. That enables the deaf person to participate, without making it necessary for you to turn the sound up so loud.
  • When in the theater, ask for any assistive devices. It can enhance your experience quite a bit if you use the personal devices. Some theaters are even Bluetoothed.
Most importantly, do NOT respond to multiple requests for repetition or clarification from a hearing impaired person with, "Never Mind!". However maddening it may seem for you to repeat yourself, in ever louder phrases, it is FAR more difficult to be the one that is requesting it.

We aren't doing it to be difficult. There are ways that you can deal with it, without becoming impatient or shouting.
  1. Try using a lower pitch. Hearing usually fades in the highest tones first, so many women find that their husbands seem to be ignoring them. They are not. They simply can't hear their wives higher voice as well as they used to.
  2. Speak about 1/3 slower - not in that exaggerated, "you must be stupid" kind of way, just slow down your speech a smidge (I'm talking to Yankees and New Yorkers, mostly. Southerners are generally good).
  3. Articulate the consonants. No droppin' the g's. Keep the words crisp, not slurred. Avoid talking like you're that cool, urban kid, with a bit of a buzz on.
  4. If either you, or the person who is hearing-impaired, does not speak English Standard, or has a heavy accent, keep in mind that this is yet another barrier. Accept the responsibility for doing whatever is needed to keep the conversation.
  5. Look at them. Even if we aren't up to the level of Sue Thomas: FB Eye (very few of us are), we all supplement listening with clues generated from the way a mouth moves.
Some resources:
  1. Miracle-Ear - they have a lot of information about the subject. Full Disclosure: I have their hearing aids, and I have been quite pleased with the performance. I get nothing for endorsing or recommending them.
  2. Captioning for your phone - I have one (the state paid for it). It shouldn't cost anything, and it does make it easier for conversation.
  3. Hearing Loss News - just a tremendous source of information about hearing loss - Click Here for a list of drugs that can cause hearing loss.
  4. Some general information from WebMD.
  5. A fascinating blogger who is hearing impaired. Put her on your Favorites.
I'll add more in the future.


Manu said...

After DJing for twenty years, my hearing loss is probably great. I have extremely bad tinnitus.

Occupational hazard, though. I knew it going in.

daniel_day said...

I have very bad tinnitis too, in addition to what seems to be a family issue with hearing loss. If I can't watch a show with closed captions, it's usually a waste of my time.