“Hi, my name is Shari and I am excited to be at this conference/retreat/class.” This is how it usually begins. We all go around the room and introduce ourselves, give a reason or two why we are here and it moves onto the next person. But at my most recent retreat, I decided to try something different. I began with the typical particulars, but I ended with the following.
“Oh, and I just wanted to mention that I have a hearing loss, so I will be positioning myself as close to the teacher as possible during the exercises (meaningful look in the teacher’s direction to make sure she heard this), and if you speak to me and I don’t answer or if I look at you like you have two heads, please don’t think I am rude, I probably just didn’t hear you. Please try again.”
I had never done that before — made my hearing loss a part of my introduction in front of a group — but I know I will do it again. It worked famously!
First of all, at the introductions, people are typically paying attention, so it was an efficient way to get the message out there, and it made me feel a lot less fearful of dirty looks from others in the group as I moved up close to the speaker at all of the events. A few people even came up to me afterwards and disclosed their own hearing loss or that of a spouse or loved one, which is always a good bonding moment for those of us with hearing loss.
Secondly, it made an impression. Later that day, the teacher made a point of putting me in a good spot for a particularly hard-to-hear segment of the class, and when I needed to ask people to repeat themselves, they seemed more willing to do so (at least the first few times).
Thirdly, I felt much more relaxed. My fear of not being able to hear everything or that I might reply to a question with the answer to something else was gone. Everyone already knew I had a hearing loss, so they would expect a few flubs. The flubs might even be funny. Maybe…
Lastly, I could ask for help as I needed it without a big explanation. For example, I was able to ask people to switch seats with me a few times so I could see (and therefore hear) better at various presentations and at the group dinners. All requests were met with a smile.
Maybe I was just lucky that this particular group was so accommodating, or maybe I felt more comfortable asking for help, but the meeting was one of my most productive and pleasant. I plan to try this announcement trick at my next group function. If it helps even half as much as it did at this particular offsite, it will be worth it.
Readers, do you announce your hearing loss as part of your self-introduction in a group setting?
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25 thoughts on “I Have A (Hearing Loss) Announcement To Make”
“Letting people in” mostly always comes back in good ways. The hearing loss is not a secret. Good for you.
I think I told you that at a retreat this winter after I made hearing loss part of my intro THREE other women announced their hearing losses. We bonded, of course.
Of course! Thanks for sharing your comment!
Tapping on iPhone and pressed “send” too quickly.
Just wanted to add that revealing my hearing loss made “hearing loss” part of the weekend conversation and experience, as it was for you. Don’t you wish everyone living with hearing loss was as comfortable? Holly
I do. Thanks Holly!
Recently I was invited to a 60th birthday party for a very good friend. It was a small family affair and everyone was annotated and happy to reconnect. Our host, the birthday boy, made an announcement shortly after we arrived which was very much the same as the one you made at your class, regarding my hearing problem. It helped a lot. I still had problems when 3 or 4 conversations were in full swing at the same time. But it took the “heat” off my asking for a repetition now and then.
So glad that helped you too!
I always mention that I’m hearing impaired during my introductions. I also speak publicly and at first I tried to cover it up and act as if I didn’t have a hearing issue. Well, this one woman came up to me to introduce herself before I was to speak. I couldn’t hear her and panicked. I was completely embarrassed and wanted to run out of the room. I got caught up in my critical mind and had to force myself to breathe. Then I said, “I’m sorry but I’m hearing impaired and missed what you said. Could you repeat it?” She was kind and understanding and at that moment I said ‘no more’ would I hide this. Now I start all my speaking events with my disclaimer and I also have my husband present to help me with the audience’s questions. When I attend an event I sit in the front and if small retreat I let the group know. After that first hurdle I have no problem speaking up about it. Thanks for listening.
That is so great! Thanks for sharing your story.
It’s great to read that you had such a positive experience as its not always easy to open up , get the right words and at the right time ! I had a few negative experiences in the past when I did this at courses I had to attend at work. I found it split the room into some who carried on as normal and were helpful , to others who appeared to avoid me or just stopped speaking. On reflection being older and hopefully a bit wiser I think maybe the not so good people did not know what to do and I probably did not explain how they could help me. Or maybe it was just the competitive nature of what we are asked to do …lots of team building exercises with verbal instructions & beat the clock exercises ! What a nightmare looking back though I can laugh now.☺i remember asking the tutor for some help and being rebuffed with ‘ just tell people, you have to learn to get on with it ‘ when actually I had asked for some exercises that were not so heavily reliant on everyone shouting instructions and running around , to balance it out a bit. Not ever found a team building/leadership type company ever able to cater for people who might struggle to heat. However later on I was a bit more assertive and people did understand and allow me to take a back seat when it was just too much. Didn’t help my career prospects though!!!
Wow, it sounds like they could have been much more helpful! Maybe I just had a great group, but I hope it will be the same positive experience next time. Thanks for sharing your story.
This post couldn’t have come at a better time and is really encouraging! I’m about to start a new job that requires me to be in a training class for the first three months. I’ve had jobs like that before and was met with difficulty due to my hearing loss in those training classes.
This article encourages me to share my hearing loss issues and explain why I’ll be sitting close to the trainer and asking for accommodation if I don’t hear someone calling for me.
Excellent! Hope all goes well!
When I was in college a teacher said she did not want to be interrupted. If we had a question, save it for after class. I quickly interrupted and said I have a hearing loss and I’m here to learn. If I miss something, I will interrupt. And I did, often. Turns out I was not only helping myself, I was also helping the hearing students too.
Good for you! Great story.
I enjoyed this post too! I completely agree! I actually do this all the time as well again since my hearing loss is so bad.
My favourite thing to do is to let someone finish their long, serious, detailed issue that they want me to advise on, and then say back to them – ok I have no idea what you just said. We both laugh and start again. This used to terrify me but now I honestly think it helps make everyone more comfortable. Nobody is without challenges in the work place anyway so I think it helps to reach out and create a supportive environment for everyone. I wrote a blog for my co-workers about it too. I am going to reblog your story as well (assuming that is ok?) Thanks!
Thanks for sharing! That is a good strategy to break the ice!
I just started my MA course and it took me a few weeks to build up the courage to make an “announcement” to the class about my hearing impairment and the need to sit closer to the tutors. Thank you for this inspiring post!
Good for you! It makes it much easier to be out in the open.