Sometimes in difficult listening situations, I hear better than my hearing family. It is probably because I am skilled at lipreading, attentive to visual clues, and use other communication strategies to enhance my hearing, while my family typically just hears without having to do much of anything else. But not this one time.
We were visiting a Bedouin community in the Negev desert for a camel ride and to learn more about Bedouin culture. We were lucky to have one of the leaders of the community speak with our group to explain the customs and culture of this nomadic people. The man was talking in an incredibly faint voice.
Almost immediately, I knew it was hopeless — there was no amount of effort on my part that would allow me to understand this man. I resigned myself to getting a summary from my family later. But then I glanced over at them. My family kept turning to look at me and then back to the speaker, back and forth, back and forth, as if they were wondering whether I could hear him.
I noticed the mixture of fear and embarrassment on their faces. The insecurity about whether to ask the person to speak up or to stay silent. The quick glances around to see if it was just them that couldn’t understand what he was saying. I knew these looks well, having worn them a million times. They couldn’t hear a thing.
I decided to come to their rescue. I interrupted the man saying, “Excuse me, we are having a bit of trouble hearing you, do you mind if we move closer to you?” He didn’t mind, and in fact moved closer to us, which helped a little bit.
“Do you mind speaking a little bit louder too?” I asked him. He tried, but as is often the case, people fall back into their normal speech patterns fairly quickly. It was a lot of effort, but with lipreading and context clues, I was able to catch about 75% of what he said. I’m not sure my family did as well, because I needed to fill in some blanks for them in our discussion of the event later.
We were all exhausted from our efforts. It takes a lot of energy to hear with your ears, eyes and brain all at once! They were impressed with my abilities to understand in a difficult listening environment, when they were struggling.
Welcome to my world, I kept chuckling to myself. This is what I do on a regular basis, just to function. Perhaps they will have more understanding of my hearing loss exhaustion the next time it strikes.
Readers, do you ever hear better than your hearing friends or family?