A few weeks ago I attended HLAA’s annual convention. It is always a treat. Several days of hearing accessible workshops, learning about new products available for people with hearing loss in the exhibition hall, and just plain fun, hanging out with my hearing loss friends. It is a great mix of people — some with more severe hearing issues, some with less, but each has something to teach me in terms of coping skills and tricks of the trade. And simply friendship. I can’t wait for next year.
I remember heading to my 1st convention 3 years ago. I was worried I would not fit in. I started losing my hearing in my 20s, but didn’t wear hearing aids regularly for more than 10 years. I didn’t yet define myself as someone with hearing loss — if anything I was still trying to hide it and deny it in certain contexts.
But finding my peer group changed all that. I met people who understood my predicament. I learned tips and tricks to hear better. I connected with other impassioned advocates. I grew as a person.
When I get together with my hearing loss friends, the first 5 minutes of any gathering is taken up by making sure everyone is in the best seat for whatever particular hearing issues they have. Some can’t face the window, others need to have someone only on their left side, etc. It is quite comical when you think about it, but also necessary so that everyone can participate. We do this all with a smile.
During our time together, we follow communication best practices like taking turns speaking and facing each other for clear communication. If someone looks confused, we say it again. And again. Until the other person understands. It is a relaxing environment for any who struggles to keep up with conversations on a regular basis.
While our friendships may have started because of our shared hearing problems, over time they evolve. We find other things that we have in common — the love of the theater, reading books, travel, gardening, or whatever. And the friendships grow.
For anyone struggling with hearing loss, finding a peer group of others with the same issues can truly lighten the load. Click here to find a local HLAA chapter in your area or ask your audiologist if he can introduce you to others in your situation. I love spending time with my hearing loss friends, and I bet you would too.
Readers, do you have hearing loss friends?