When I was growing up, my father never wanted to discuss his hearing loss. He was embarrassed and ashamed of not hearing. It was an unmentionable topic in my family which just perpetuated the stigma. When I emerged from my hearing loss closet almost 10 years ago, I wanted to do everything I could to crush that stigma. I sought to make hearing loss a normal topic of conversation, like someone’s back problems or new glasses. I try to do this each week on my blog.
Reducing stigma takes time and requires education. As people living with hearing loss, we must lead the pack by being comfortable with our hearing issues and discussing them in a matter of fact tone, not with an apology. We need to encourage people to ask us about our hearing loss. Questions go a long way towards better understanding, and most importantly, acceptance.
Children are often the most open. I remember wading in the water at a hotel pool a few years ago when a little boy swam up to me and said, “Do you know that you have something in your ear?” I loved his curiosity and his lack of embarrassment to engage in conversation about something new.
Adults are often more reserved. Maybe they are afraid to ask questions for fear of offending us or for highlighting our disability unnecessarily. I wish they wouldn’t be. Here are some suggested questions to get the conversation started.
What to Ask Someone About Their Hearing Loss
Can you hear me OK? What a wonderful acknowledgement that the speaker is part of the solution and is willing to make adjustments to help me understand what they are saying.
Where do you want to sit? When we arrive at a meeting or social gathering, I love when my family asks me where I want to sit. That way I can choose the opportune spot for me in this particular setting.
Can I listen through your hearing device? Let your friends and family try your pocket talker or portable loop (keep the volume very low as to not damage their hearing) so they can better understand the challenge of extraneous background noise and the unique sound of a digital voice.
Where would you like to meet for dinner? Letting me pick a quiet location helps me to anticipate the evening with joy rather than fear that I won’t be able to participate in the conversation.
Is the movie showing at a theater with captioning devices? This is a great way to include a friend in an outing to the movies or other performance venue.
Do you want me to repeat that for you? I sometimes miss the specials at a restaurant. Luckily my family usually alerts me if there is something I would be interested in ordering. Sometimes they even ask if I want them to repeat them for me. I always appreciate the thought.
Shall I go to your doctor’s appointment with you? Going to the doctor is stressful under any circumstances, but when you have hearing loss it can be challenging to boot. New terminology and important information make it critical that you get the details right. Having a hearing person with you can sometimes be a big help.
Would you like the information in writing? Yes, please! Whether it is an address, a meeting time, or the name of a new eye cream, please write it down. Or better yet, email it to me. This not only minimizes errors, but makes it easier for me to remember it because I have seen it in written form.
Anything else you would like to know! All questions are welcome. Please don’t be shy. We can’t expect you to understand our hearing loss unless we share information with you. It helps us to feel your support when you ask questions about it.
Readers, do you get questions about your hearing loss?
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24 thoughts on “Please Ask Me About My Hearing Loss”
Your blog is making such wonderful changes in my life. Thank you so much! I have the digital reader and everyone is curious and therefore trying harder to understand the hearing problems. Your helpful tips are making my life easier and easier – thank you!
So glad it is helping and you are advocating for yourself! Thanks for your comment.
These are great suggestions! I think your attitude is the one to embrace with a hearing loss too.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Haralee.
What’s particularly interesting about this topic is the realization that I hardly ever get any questions. i mean, I have this rather large hearing aid on one ear and a cochlear implant sound processor and head piece on the other side – and they are not “institutional” black but very visible silver gray. I have no hair go speak of so covering things is not an option. Hats outside but they come off inside – a “tip-o-the-hat” to my upbringing which dictated that hats came off when indoors.
I’ve decided that it must be that others feel that it’s intrusive or impolite to say something. I’m reminded of how I often unconsciously avoid eye contact with someone in a wheelchair or on crutches when perhaps the kindest thing would be to ask if I could assist in some way – perhaps to navigate a doorway or being seated at a table in a cafe. I wonder whether people with those disabilities want to be asked,
It was when I began to think of my condition as an actual disability that life took on an entirely different slant. I’m literally deaf without my wonderful instruments and impaired with them. When someone does comment I always feel validated.
You always make me think, Shari. Thanks.
That is odd that you don’t get more questions, especially with the visible CI, but as you say, people often feel shy. Thanks for adding to the conversation.
This really makes me think Shari. I don’t normally ask because I’ve always thought that it would be rude.
I would encourage you to ask — in a curious and polite way of course! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
If we are open and honest about our hearing issues, especially in difficult listening environments, and others see that we are okay in talking about our hearing loss then this goes towards getting rid of any stigma once and for all.
I love it when I see someone looking at my hearing aids and I’ve shown one or two close colleagues how they work. Doing this I discovered that a female colleague has a male partner who is also hard of hearing and wears hearing aids!
Hearing loss is everywhere! Almost every time I discuss mine, the person tells me about his hearing issues or a family member with hearing loss. It is great to have these conversations. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Shari, interesting to read your comment about sharing your assistive listening technology and I think its a great idea but am puzzled as to how you can do that? I have previously used a Comfort Contego which works via a neck loop and recently had upgraded aids, Resound GN, and now use their Multi Mic which connects wirelessly to my aids and I would love to be able to share my hearing experience with friends and family but have no idea if it can be done with either of these devices. Any suggestions would be much appreciated. I live in England and enjoy reading your blogs. Regards Pete
The easiest way might be to attach headphones to the neckloop if there is a spot for that. That would let them hear the sound of a looped event or speech through the Multi Mic. Also you can attach headphones to a smartphone and utilize an app like EarMachine or i-Hear to give them the sense of digital sound. Hope that helps!
Great topic Shari and you covered plenty of useful information that I think all of us HOH people encounter often in our everyday lives . I find doctors the worst culprits of not assisting well enough when you can’t hear them . They are usually pressed for time and figure your hearing aid works well enough . Very frustrating to leave an appointment and to have missed 3/4 of what they said .
It is so important to advocate for yourself at the doctor’s office, but often challenging to do so. You can try asking for things in writing, which is often easier to understand. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I appreciate your openness and the trail you are blazing!
Thank you for your encouragement Eliza!
Thank you for sharing this. It’s helpful. I handled my cancer in a similar way in that I found so many people fighting cancer tried to pretend they were fine and even tried to hide it. By being open and talking openly, I found it helped me to cope – and helped them to be able to feel involved. (And by the way, that was 20 years ago and I’m doing really well.) Thankful Thursday & Click to Tweet
Thank you for sharing your experiences. So glad you are doing well!
Thanks for writing the blog and for frequent posts. I know it helps a lot of people. I always learn something. One thought I have, and it applies to many journalistic hearing loss advisories. Not all of us have “family” to repeat what we’ve missed. Many of us also don’t have a significant other. But that doesn’t stop us from being engaged in a larger world, visiting restaurants, and attending activities where hearing can be a challenge. We just have a slightly harder job. I’d like to see more articles devoted to being “a solo HOH”.
Thank you for this excellent suggestion.
Hearing loss people do not want to discuss their hearing loss. If I ask them, You are with hearing loss or you are deaf, they fell embarrassed.
Sometimes that is true. It was true for me for many years. But once I got past the stigma I was much happier and now prefer when people ask me about it so they can help me hear my best. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I can relate to what Himanshu mentioned about being embarrassed. Growing up with hearing loss, I think I felt more like I would be left out more or made fun of if I mentioned I had a profound hearing loss , then my peers would treat me as weak or speak to me slowly, in an embarrassing way . But now at age 55, I’ve come a long way surviving the hearing world and I find it’s always best to let people know your situation and I find most people are kind enough to be patient with you .
I completely agree. Thank you for sharing your perspective on this.