Breaking Out of Our Hearing Loss Bad Habits

Do you ever feel like you get stuck in a destructive pattern with your hearing loss? It is easy to do. Maybe you worry you won’t be able to hear your friend over the loud background noise of the coffee shop so you make up an excuse and stay home. And then it is easier to do the same thing next time you are invited. You’ve created a hearing loss bad habit.

Or you find yourself answering every conceivable question when the masked checkout person at the grocery store asks you if you want paper or plastic because you have no idea which of the likely questions they actually asked. Before long, you are avoiding casual conversations with strangers for fear you won’t understand what is said.

It’s hard to break these pattern of self-isolation and bluffing, but it’s an important step on the road to hearing loss acceptance and self-advocacy.

Picking a Different Path for Your Hearing Loss

As new communication challenges arose with the pandemic it became easier to fall into defeatist patterns. Avoidance here. Isolation there. It became the new normal. But as we approach reopening sometime later this year, we will need to retrain ourselves.

We must break the negative patterns we have developed as coping mechanisms during this difficult time. Muster up our courage and join a conversation, meet a friend for coffee, or attend a lecture or theater performance once it is safe to do so.

The mental preparation begins now.

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Whenever I find myself falling into a negative behavior pattern, I search out one of my favorite poems. It reminds me that I am in control of my choices. That there is always another opportunity to make a better one — to meet that friend for coffee or ask the cashier for a repeat. I have the power to take a different path — to make the brave choice and engage once again despite the challenges of hearing loss.

I share the poem below entitled “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters” by Portia Nelson. I hope it will help you to recognize your hearing loss bad habits and inspire you to make the bold choice to do it differently next time.

Chapter I

I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in. I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

Chapter IV

I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

Commit to Advocating For Your Needs

Every time we advocate for ourselves, we are advocating for others in the hearing loss community as well. When we educate the receptionist at the doctor’s office or the waiter at the neighborhood restaurant how to speak so we can understand them, they are learning skills they can use with the next person. When we request captioning on a webinar, we are instructing the hosting organization how to make their offerings more accessible to a wider audience.

Our community came together to advocate for clear masks and free ASR captioning on Zoom calls during the pandemic. I am sure there will be additional challenges ahead as we re-enter a new normal post-pandemic. Together, we can take these on too.

Readers, have you learned to walk down another street with your hearing loss?

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22 thoughts on “Breaking Out of Our Hearing Loss Bad Habits

  1. alicini89 – I've created this blog to record my adventures while in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand travellIng with my best friend.
    alicini89 says:

    This is brilliant, I will keep coming back to that poem as well! Thank you, just what I needed to hear. Although I have to admit, for me, working online has actually made things a lot more accessible for me than office based work!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      So glad you liked it! Thanks for your comment.

  2. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    Thanks. I’ve asked several Zoom hosts to turn on their captioning. One had no idea this was possible. I’m not always successful and it’s a royal pain to have to continuously do this (hopefully it’ll end when I can turn on my Zoom captioning on my own soon). All were understanding and happy I told them. One participant complained that the captioning was distracting so I had to explain (via chat) why it was needed. Also, there is a way for others who do not want it to turn it off. Webinars not on Zoom are still an issue though.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thanks for the update. Advocacy is constant, but it is worth it.

  3. Jerry Henderson – Pownal Maine – Thank you for coming to my space. This is where I post thoughts, opinions and commentary on a variety of subjects at irregular intervals. I try to do something weekly, but have not nailed down a rigid schedule, like every Wednesday, yet. If you would like email notifications of new posts, you can make that happen right on the site. Simply enter your email address to subscribe. Also, if you would like to comment I welcome that. Just do so in the space at the bottom of any selected post. Sharing thoughts, opinion and commentary is a peculiarly human characteristic. It must be exercised to be enjoyed. Jerry Henderson
    Jerry Henderson says:

    Portia Nelson’s “Autobiography” is so good. It nailed me in my habit of just, one way or another, avoiding places and people that I know will give me trouble understanding. Mumblers, foreign accents, fast talkers, noisy echoey situations all drive me crazy. AND I just get tired of dealing with it.

    I handle isolation quite well. I know that in the long term it does not nurture balanced mental health. So I work on it. Not hard enough. We press on.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Keep working Jerry! Thanks for your comment.

  4. Susan — When a Zoom host enables captions that simply allows attendees to turn them on their end. The captions don’t automatically appear on everyone’s screen – so nobody should be bothered.
    Google Meet also has auto-captioning available.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      In my experience, sometimes the captions do go on for everyone on Zoom when the host turns them on, but it is easy to turn them off if they want to. It seems to vary from meeting to meeting which is odd.

  5. If you select View live transcripts, will display in your sidebar participant panel and only you can see them. Sub titles will not display for other partipants

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Interesting. I will try that. Thanks for the idea.

  6. Shari,
    Thank you for the reminder of committing to advocacy for our needs. When caught in a gridlock with bureaucrats and governmental policy-makers, discouragement is easily the automatic default. Perseverance is key.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      So true! Keep at it Alison! Thanks for your comment and your continued advocacy.

  7. I especially your paragraph “When we advocate for ourselves, we are advocating for others in the hearing loss community as well…They are learning skills they can use for the next person”. A great incentive to keep advocating four ourselves!!!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      I agree. We can do it for ourselves, but also for others — all at the same time. Thanks for your comment.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      So glad you liked it too. Thanks for your comment.

  8. My life has been so different this past year, but not as much from the pandemic but dealing with and coping with my husband’s stroke. I don’t have very many social interactions, but yesterday, I found myself doing some advocacy very spontaneously. I had taken my brother in law (a special needs kind of guy) to the store to get new glasses, and saw another older man looking at glasses too. I had noticed his hearing aids, and then I noticed the glasses he kept putting back on had very thick ear pieces – like the kind that will hurt when put behind your ear along with the hearing aids. I went over to him, and pointed that out to him – that he may want to think about that in his choice for frames, and share my experience of learning the hard way, having to have the glasses shaved down to avoid hurting my ears when sharing space with my hearing aids. He was very thankful, and at least two of the employees also made note of my comments – and thanked me too!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      That is a perfect example of the many layers of advocacy. Well done! And thank you for sharing it here.

  9. I have had a hearing loss for a very long time but still have recently fallen into the bad habits that you mention, making me lonely and isolated. Thanks for the reminder. I am starting to talk with people more.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Glad to hear that you are getting back out there. Keep it up! Thanks for your comment.

  10. This is amazing and so appropriate for many stumbling blocks in life. I enjoy all your posts and they are helping me become stronger, bolder and unashamed of an unseen disability. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of LivingWithHearingLoss.com, a popular blog and online community for people living with hearing loss and tinnitus, and executive producer of We Hear You, an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Shari also serves on the board of directors of Hearing Loss Association of America. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      I am so glad you liked it. Thank you for your kind words.

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