Being deaf or hard of hearing means that just about every and any situation you can possibly encounter will be compromised or challenged in some way. I never realized how often I adjust myself because of this...when you really start to think about it, its crazy how many little significant factors can change the course of communication from successful to frustrating to impossible. So I thought I'd make a list of things to do to make communication with a deaf or HOH person easier. Of course, some of these things might be specific to just me, but I'm willing to bet there are a lot of them that are common themes...
1. When riding in a car together, let the HOH person ride shotgun. Especially if there are other people in the car. Now, obviously, a long road trip or the daily mundane husband-and-wife driving (grocery store, etc) can be excluded from this. But in general, a HOH person must look at you to understand what you are saying, and this is really, really, really hard to do while driving. It's even harder to do in the backseat. Riding shotgun means you can look at the driver, or angle yourself to look at the people in the back. Of course, this all goes to shit at night, but for the most part this is the most comfortable seat for the HOH person.
2. Do not shout at the HOH person. Trust me, nothing makes me feel like less of a person than being shouted at. As with many people who have a complicated hearing loss, raising the volume isn't going to do much anyhow, and in a lot of cases makes understanding speech more difficult. I'm not saying whisper...just speak in a normal, clear, voice...and make sure you are facing the person. Shouting is nothing if not insulting.
3. Consider background noise. A lot of people don't even think twice about something like a fan running, the television on, music blaring at a party, or the radio blasting in the car. For me, it makes trying to talk to someone infintely more difficult. I do have settings on my hearing aids intended to blockout background noise, and these work well in cars, bars, restaurants, and shopping malls and the like. In a situation like hanging out at someone's house, the simple act of turning the music or television to a soft level (or preferably off) can infinitely improve the situation.
4. Lighting is a factor. Bet you didn't know that, but since HOH people rely so heavily on vision (reading lips, noting visual cues, etc) even the littlest bit of visual distraction is, well, distracting. For example, allow the HOH person to sit with their back to the light or window, which will cast the light onto YOUR face. This is one of those things that seems so insignificant...yet makes such a big difference.
5. Outdoor lighting is key. Going along with #4, there is nothing worse than sitting outside on a summer night and having to basically withdraw from conversation after the sun goes down. Campfires, patio lights, etc can alleviate this problem, but a lot of people are totally against turning on a porch light for some reason. But if you're hanging out with me, try to to remember that if I can't see your face, everything you say is just going to sound like mumble-jumble.
6. Water is not my friend. Going swimming, to a pool, on a boat, etc is a major cause of stress. Do I take my hearing aids out and just wing it (I can read lips, but without my hearing aids its much harder) or do I leave them in and hope no one (a) pushes me into the pool (b) splashes (yeah right!) or (c) needs to be rescued from drowning. This scenario is really tough because I do love the water. This stress has only increased since having a kid. I don't want to deny him summers at the pool or swimming lessons...but how do I do that with him without either taking out my hearing aids (i.e. not safe in my opinion when I'm in charge of my child!) or just not exposing him to the water??
7. The phone is out. I think this is an area that is different for each individual, but for me, I really don't talk on the phone. I talk to my husband, mom, or sister RARELY, and these are people who's voices I know well and who know how to have a conversation and get the information across. But in general--I cannot understand people on the phone. This is really frustrating when things can't be done online, or something requires a phone call from ME personally, such as with banking or insurance--they don't care when my husband says he's calling for me, they can't do whatever it is I need unless I speak to them personally. This involves a lot of driving, which is a pain in the butt. I generally drive somewhere to make an appointment if for some reason my husband can't do it for me and I can't do it online. Anyhow...all I'm saying here is don't ask your HOH friend or family member to order a pizza. Don't say "Call me tomorrow!" In this day and age of texting, email, iphones, facebook and more there should rarely be an instance where a HOH person is forced to use the phone...
These are just a few little idiosyncracies that can either make or break how something goes for me. Just today, for example. At the pharmacy where I get my perscriptions filled, they have a very simple automated answering service, where basically all you have to do is plug in your prescription number, name, and phone number and that's it. My husband coached me on the prompts and I know it by heart...first they ask if you want to fill a script--press 1 for yes. Then, enter your script number. Then, are the first three letters of your last name...press 1 for yes. Then confirm your phone number. Easy peasy.
Except today, a live person answered!! WTF. So I figured I'd wing it but of course after the first question "Do you know your perscription number?" I could not understand anything she said. I asked her to repeat herself and she did the usual scream-into-the-phone-annoyingly thing that people do. Embarrassed and frustrated, I said I'd have to call back. What that really means is, I'll just drive to the pharmacy tomorrow to fill it. And of course get the friendly "If you call ahead, you don't have to wait!" reminder.
This isn't really a situation which can be alleviated or controlled, just an example of something frustrating in my daily life.
And, if you're wondering about the "fabulous" part of this blog...um, I haven't really gotten to that yet! But its coming, promise.
Things to Ponder
4 years ago