It was a wonderful day on a recent family vacation filled with big adventures, beautiful weather and a great evening meal. It was time to relax on the hotel bar balcony to take in the view while enjoying a drink and dessert. We settled into our spot and suddenly everyone in my family started talking so quietly that I could no longer follow the conversation. There were a few other groups enjoying the balcony but overall, it was a quiet environment. Automatically, my family had dropped the volume of their voices to match the surrounding noise level.
This is a natural reaction, but for people with hearing loss, it doesn’t work. Things must be of a certain loudness in order for me to hear them — especially voices.
I asked them to talk louder, reminding them that even though it is a quiet spot, they still need to talk at a volume that I can hear. I explained that they didn’t need to shout but to continue talking at a normal volume, just like the other people on the balcony were doing. I could understand the group behind us better than I could my own gathering!
My family couldn’t do it. Or wouldn’t do it. They glanced around with embarrassment as they continued to speak and laugh with one another in quiet voices. They seemed more concerned about not disturbing others on the balcony than including me in the conversation.
It had been a long day of listening, so perhaps my hearing loss exhaustion was kicking in making it harder for me to concentrate and understand what they were saying. Or maybe they were tired and speaking quietly for that reason. It didn’t matter to me in the moment. I was angry and wondered to myself, “Why are strangers more important than I am?” I disengaged entirely, reading a brochure for the next day’s activities while they chatted.
Soon enough, the balcony filled up, raising the overall background noise and my family’s voices so I could once again participate. I felt less eager to do so, still angry and hurt at their dismissive behavior. Then I remembered. My family is usually very supportive of me and my hearing loss, so I should probably give them a pass every once in a while. Nobody can expect perfection, but it still doesn’t feel good.
Readers, does your family sometimes worry more about disturbing others than helping you hear?