The music was blaring. People were covering their ears. I had turned my hearing aids off but could still feel the bass reverberating through my body. Why did anybody think this would be a good setting for a reunion of board members — most of them in their 50s and 60s? I wasn’t sure, but most people were just trying to survive — shouting to one another to be heard or attempting to move to a quieter spot for discussion. Some danced rather than make any attempt at conversation or just focused on eating in silence.
I was miserable. I couldn’t effectively converse with anyone — lipreading can only take you so far, and I kept worrying if the constant noise was further damaging my hearing — even with my hearing aids turned off and acting as earplugs in my ears. I didn’t want to be anti-social or miss the “fun” but I knew I had to get out of there.
But first I needed to get my coat. Because it was so early, the coat check person had left her post and was nowhere to be found. Rather than sneaking out quietly without a fuss, I would now need to track down the organizers, and ask for the coat check to be opened, calling attention to my early exit. It took several minutes, but at least the coat check was on another floor so I was away from the blistering sound.
Coat finally in hand, I made a mad dash for the door, and spent a quiet night in my hotel room recuperating and preparing for the next day. I felt guilty, frustrated and spent, but sometimes, with hearing loss, you have to leave the party early, simply to survive.
Self-Care is Key When You Have Hearing Loss
I don’t like to let my hearing loss hold me back from taking on new challenges or exploring and partaking in all that life has to offer, so when I fled the party, I was initially overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and self-loathing. Why couldn’t I figure out a way to make the situation work? Where were my self-advocacy skills? Why hadn’t I just asked someone to turn down the music?
With distance, I came to realize that I did the right thing. Some situations are not worth the effort that would be required to conquer them — and some just aren’t possible to master. Self-care was more important than socializing at this party, especially since I knew there would be more opportunities to visit with everyone the next day. Even though it felt like defeat at the time, it was actually self-advocacy — the most important kind.
The next day I was well rested and able to enjoy socializing and reuniting with friends and colleagues. That would not have been possible if I had not elected to exit early the night before. Life is a tradeoff, and I have no regrets about the choice I made in this situation. In fact, I encourage everyone with hearing loss to take the time to rest and recuperate when needed. That way you set yourself up to enjoy and thrive in the communication situations that are to come.