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.
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?