Do You Have a Hearing Buddy?

I didn’t do it on purpose — finding a hearing buddy to help me navigate my recent yoga retreat. It just happened, mostly because my hearing buddy enjoyed helping me and because I wasn’t shy about letting her know about my hearing loss. I used to regularly hide my hearing loss, but since I came out of my hearing loss closet, I make a point to announce my hearing issues at the start of any retreat / meeting / class where they might impact my interactions with others. This retreat was no exception.

Living With Hearing Loss | A Hearing Loss Blog

At dinner the first night, I mentioned to those seated near me that I might have trouble hearing in the crowded space. “Please don’t think I am rude if I don’t respond appropriately to a question or if I ignore it all together.” I said. “It is only because I didn’t hear you. Just tap me and please try again.” Everyone was friendly and helpful, but one woman really took this to heart.

At yoga class the next day, my new friend set up her mat right next to mine. I had told the teacher about my hearing issues in advance of the retreat and while she tried to speak clearly and always demonstrated the postures first (which I very much appreciated), her accent made it tough for me to understand her when we were transitioning from one pose to another.

Normally, this doesn’t really bother me. I use my yoga with a hearing loss best practices like setting myself up in the middle of the yoga room so I can use visual clues to keep me on track. But this time, I also had a hearing buddy. Anytime I would lag behind, she would turn towards me so I could see her lips and give me instructions. Or she might reach over and move my leg to the right spot. I didn’t ask her to do any of this, but I found it incredibly helpful. And it made me laugh.

“That’s not right!” she would mouth while banging on my shoulder a couple of times to get my attention. “Your left foot should go behind your right” or “Wrap your knee over your thigh — not your calf,” she would stage whisper. As I am writing this, it sounds as if this would have been annoying and embarrassing, but it wasn’t. It was clear that she had only the very best intentions. She simply wanted me to get the most out of the class.

This experience got me thinking about the idea of a hearing buddy more generally. How convenient would it be to have someone who was always there to make sure I was in the know, following the conversation, and getting the right instructions!

In reality, “hearing buddies” takes many forms, only some of which are human. These include technologies like hearing aids and cochlear implants and accommodations like captioning and hearing loops. Some people also have hearing dogs to provide companionship and alert them to alarms and the like.

Hearing buddies are rarely actual people. I am lucky that my son goes out of his way to speak clearly and face me when he talks, and when we are out and about, he often notices when I miss something and repeats it for me. I am grateful for all his help, but he isn’t always with me, of course.

In the end, we really need to be our own hearing buddies, by asking for the assistance we need and using the variety of technologies that are at our disposal. And maybe once in a while we will get lucky and have a hearing buddy adopt us at a yoga retreat.

Readers, do you have a hearing buddy?

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28 thoughts on “Do You Have a Hearing Buddy?

  1. No- thstcwas my problem. When I was fighting a crooked mortage company in court, I could not get a lawyer who I paid for come with me for these purposes. Courts understand deaf people need for an interpreter but not an Hearing impaired person needs. Only one judge did by coming down from the bench to make sure I understand. Basic needs like telling the bailiff to make sure they are louder in calling my name is met with disdain . I do not have friends to help. .

    • That is very frustrating. Have you tried to find an HLAA chapter or similar group in your area? Finding friends with hearing loss was a big help to me and they often have suggestions on how to navigate tricky situations like the one you describe. Thank you for sharing your comment.

  2. My daughters are both very helpful when they are with me…when they aren’t I have also started telling people to look at me when they speak and not put their hands in front of their mouth..most people are very kind…I have had one person say…I really don’t…maybe I need a dog!

  3. Hi Shari,
    I recently began giving my Kundalini yoga instructors my mini mic to wear, allowing their voices to stream into my hearing aid/cochlear implant. It has been VERY helpful. It has taken me a LOOONNNGGGG time to have the courage to do this, and now that I have, I question myself as to why I took so long! People are generally happy to help. And now, I don’t HAVE to sit in the front of the room to strain to hear the instructor (and apologize to someone if I have to put my mat close to theirs in order to secure a “front row” seat).

  4. My partner-in-life, CA, will often interrupt to ask if I understood someone or something. I am getting better at laying out the ground rules for myself as well. My biggest problem is that I often wade into situations without preamble and then have to play catch-up, orienting others to my special needs.

    I was recently in a meeting of about 30 persons and I positioned myself near the facilitator to understand her better. I have a rather large hearing aid and a cochlear implant attached to my bald head and which I make no attempt to hide. I had hardly found a seat when this woman approached me speaking and signing at the same time offering assistance. I told her that I do not sign but I thanked her for her support. The acknowledgment felt right. She was offering to be my hearing buddy if needed.

    In the cartoon strip Wizard of Id, this guy walks into a hearing aid shop and announces, “I want the smallest and cheapest hearing aid you got”. In the final panel this little guy walks in and the proprietor says, “His name is Willy, and he’ll repeat everything anyone says to you”. There are times when I need Willy.

  5. I am so very lucky to have very special hearing buddies in my life!💜
    And it all started because I was open and shared what I needed.

    When my buddies are not around, I do find myself out of loop at times…

    But I am a bit envious of your yoga retreat buddy! Awesome !! Kudos!

  6. Great idea.
    I have a PHONAK Bluetooth streamer and microphone, which the teacher can wear around his/her neck.
    Speaking directly into the microphone, sends the speech sounds directly into my hearing aids….greatest thing for me.
    I’m often alone, with no one to be my buddy.
    So, the microphone is a life saver!
    Do you have a microphone and streamer to use?

  7. In my writing class, I wrote a piece about what people can do to help me “hear” better. It was a very emotional piece for me so I had someone else read it aloud to the group. Since I wrote that piece, people will say to other classmates, “Don’t cover your lips, S can’t hear you” or “Speak louder.” They have become aware of my needs. Also, my adult daughter read the piece I wrote when I left it on my desk. She didn’t admit to reading it, but ever since I wrote that piece she no longer says, “Never mind.” after I haven’t heard her the first time and she makes sure she is facing me when speaking to me.

  8. I find MOST people have a good heart and will help you when you get stuck , even strangers . I have a lot of hearing buddies at work which helps make me fit in well , not feel left out , and allow me to do my job effectively. So I am blessed !

  9. My husband and teenage kids have been my hearing buddies for a while now. They all seem to have developed a good sense for what I can and can’t hear in social situations. At times it seems almost automatic for them to repeat things for me. I’m not sure they are even conscious of it. I’ve also found that the more open I am about my hearing loss the more hearing buddies I acquire. I recently attended a conference where, for a variety of reasons, even those who had normal hearing struggled to understand the speakers. I had two friends comment on how hard it must be for me.

  10. I love the support from this! I often tell people up front that I have a hearing disability. And I’m amused at how some react. Some people try to sign, some people talk real loud at first and then go back to their regular tone, some freeze up and seem confused. I just do the best I can and move on 🙂

  11. Hi Shari
    No I don’t have a hearing buddy but love the idea. I’m going to ask for one at my next meeting.
    Thank you

  12. Hi Shari — Jumping in here very late, but just wanted to thank you for posting on this topic. Yes, I’ve had many hearing buddies over the years who have provided both a practical and emotional boost. Currently, it’s my husband, who — now that he’s beginning to loose some hearing himself — says he really gets how challenging it is. 🙂 My first hearing buddy appeared when we were both in 7th grade. I was the only kid in school who wore hearing aids and she decided to be my friend. (BTW, she later became a certified interpreter and teacher of hearing impaired kids.) When I’m alone, waiting to board a plane at the airport for example, I will ask someone to fill me in if there’s an announcement that’s important, and when it’s time to board. Most people seem to enjoy being asked and it helps reduce the tendency to feel isolated!

  13. My wonderful yoga teacher uses my Roger pen, and often, if there is a new person in the class, she explains what it is and how it works. One of the outcomes of this that has made me positively joyful is that she has raised awareness in our class. A number of my fellow students have approached me about their own hearing difficulties or those of a loved one and very often, a cluster of people gather to talk about hearing loss. There is tremendous curiosity about technology. And my all time favorite chapter in this story is that one person got hearing aids as a result of our bringing hearing loss out of the closet in yoga. Thanks for another wonderful piece, Shari!

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