Do you get hearing loss exhaustion? I sometimes do. Particularly on days where there is more listening than normal required — like at a conference or when there is a social gathering at the end of the day. Even family outings can be exhausting if everyone is talking at once and there is plenty of activity. One time there was such an exhausting activity, I just walked out in order to save my sanity. I now refer to it as the Circle of Hearing Hell. Here is what happened.
We were at a weekend retreat for my daughter’s school and while the children were off working with the teachers on a project, the parents were expected to mingle and meet each other. Instead of a traditional cocktail party, the organizers tried a get-to-know-each-other game where the parents sat on chairs in two circles, one inside the other, so that each parent was sitting across from someone she didn’t know. You were then asked to discuss a certain topic with this person, until the organizers announced, “Rotate!” at which point everyone in the inner circle shifted one chair to the left. Then you were to discuss a second topic with this new person. And so it went for several rotations.
You can only imagine the noise level in the room, with 150 parents chatting away simultaneously! When everyone was talking, I clocked the noise at about 90 decibels on my handy iPhone decibel reader. I tried my best for two or three rotations, but honestly, I couldn’t really follow what the person across from me was saying. I typically do better with female voices (I have better high pitch hearing), but in this context, it didn’t seem to matter. Male or female, I could only speech read about half of what they were saying. At least I knew the topic we were supposed to be discussing, so that helped, but it was exhausting.
I rarely walk out of a situation because of my hearing loss. I am not a quitter and always search for a work-around, but in this case, it just wasn’t happening. The overall background noise combined with a new voice to learn every 5 minutes, was just too much. Between rotations, I excused myself to go to the ladies room, and never returned. My husband stayed to carry the family torch and collect my daughter once she returned from her programming.
My takeaway from this experience, is that sometimes, you just have to protect yourself. I made an effort to meet as many parents as possible in other settings throughout the weekend, so no harm done. Plus, by leaving this situation, I preserved my energy for other interactions which would be more productive. Hey, life is a tradeoff, and I have no regrets about the tradeoff I made in this case. In fact, I encourage everyone to take the time they need for rest, so they can enjoy and thrive in the communication situations that are to come.
Readers, how do you protect yourself in situations like the Circle of Hearing Hell?