(As I delve into this social side of hearing loss, I feel I need to restate a disclaimer. These discussions are personal. They are based on my observations and experiences. Specifically this is about severe / profound hearing loss. It is not reflective of the world of deafness or even life with a Cochlear Implant. Truly, I have little standing in those conversations.)
Sorry for what?
That we have a disability?
That’s like saying, “Sorry, I only have one leg.”
Ok, I know that what we actually are saying is : “ Sorry [I did not understand you. May I ask you to repeat that? because ] I’m hard of hearing.
But if you think about it…that’s not how we act. We act apologetic that we have a disability. That somehow we are culpable for our hearing loss or at least the inconvenience it causes everyone else. Or worse…. pretend that we don’t have hearing loss. We’ll sit in the seat back of an Uber ride with a chatty driver and make appropriate uncommittal responses as if we understand what they are saying, when actually we are just catching a word here and there.
Hearing loss is so frustrating and tiring that often we just want to shout, “Cant you see that I can’t hear.” But they can’t see it…and that is a significant problem as we move through our lives. We don’t look like we have a disability.
I fly a lot. A perfect example of living with a disability and not “looking” disabled is the waiting area at airline gates. Important information is being provided to passengers all the time. Mostly, we haven’t a clue what it is. Usually we manage to get on board because we go when everyone else starts to move. Sometimes Not, or close to not. I have missed an announcement of a gate change. Didn’t see it until almost too late because there were still a lot of people waiting at that gate ….for a different flight. Flying standby? Good luck hearing your name called…. When you didn’t step forward they gave your seat to somebody else.
The reality is: while those with mobility or breathing disabilities are willingly accommodated in the airport and at the gate, by and large the airline industry seems to have made little serious effort to providing better visual information for the hearing impaired. It would actually help everybody. Pick other venues and the same will hold true. Trains, subways, buses, amusement parks, etc.
So where am I going with this besides a nice rant? I have learned that if I want to have any chance of engaging in the world around me, I have to tell them that I cant hear and do it in a way that people understand that I want to know what is going on ….what they have to say. Our hearing loss is invisible. It will always have to be our initiative to inform and to request accommodation.
I should have let a gate agent know that I cant understand the announcements and to please seek me out (standing over here) with any important changes. A little hard to do? Yes. Embarrassing? It absolutely should not be. I’m getting a little better about this stuff all the time, but there are many times when I don’t make the appropriate effort. Its my loss when I don’t.