Educating Cluelessness

I have just about had it with people who totally do not understand hearing loss.  Sitting around the picnic table on my deck with family, when suddenly my niece turns to me, taps me on the shoulder and says out loud,  “are your hearing aids on?” 

I looked at her with complete contempt and disgust.  Afterall, she knows I am hearing impaired, knows I wear a hearing aid…….ah! but she’s hearing and she’s clueless.  It doesn’t matter how many times I tell hearing people that wearing a hearing aid does not give us 20/20 hearing, they still don’t get it, can’t comprehend it, and in my opinion, so afraid to imagine what it’s like to be without it.

I’m getting to the point in my life where I am tired of educating the hearing on hearing loss and deafness.  I’m tired of being nice about it and most of all, I’m tired of hearing peoples lack of wanting to understand hearing loss.  I most recently discovered the only way to give hearing people a small taste of what it’s like to have even a mild to moderate hearing loss is to give them a taste of it.

I do workshops for school staff on early detection and understanding  hearing loss.  One day, while preparing my powerpoints, I was trying to figure out how to bring the audience into the life of hearing loss.  And it hit me, I need to allow my audience to get a sense of what hearing loss sounds like to us.  So, I searched the web and found several programs that I could set up to have the audience listen to a man, woman and childs voice and what it sounds like to hear those voices at different degrees of hearing loss.  I also purchased several hundred packaged earplugs online to have each person experience a 35 db. hearing loss (thats if the individual did not have an unknown additional loss) toward the end of the presentation. 

What I discovered by giving everyone the earplugs and moving along with my presentation was that everyone was so baffled by what they could or could not hear and the difficulty they were having with the speech discrimination.   Some people refused to put the earplugs in both ears, some pulled them out after a few minutes but everyone was totally thrown into a new light about hearing loss.  My experiment has been so successful that I now use the earplugs and what hearing loss sounds like for all my presentations to make my point.   I also always carry earplugs on me, just in case I need to do a quick lesson.

Getting back to my niece.  After several minutes of people joking around about my hearing loss, I pulled out packages of earplugs and handed them out.  I told everyone to put them on and continue with their conversations.  At first, no one took me seriously, but the look on my face told them, they best listen. They listened and listened they did.  There were lots of “what did u say?”  “Did u say blue or hue?” “Look at my lips and try to read them.”

After ten minutes, I got a big apology from my niece as well as my nephew as well as lots of questions. I guess deep down inside I do care and can’t help but feel the need to educate the hearing.  I guess I also learned a lesson here and that is, I need to be patient, as patient as I expect the hearing person to be with me.

0 thoughts on “Educating Cluelessness

  1. This is a wonderful hands on way of educating hearing people. Where do you get all those earplugs at such a good price. I need to educate a few people too. 🙂

  2. Wow, brilliant! So much of what you said rang true for me as well. I may well try your tactic if you don’t mind. I always hate it when people ask me what I can hear and what I can’t hear. How do I know? Do they know what they can’t hear!?
    Great blog!

  3. Just google earplugs on line and look for the ones in individual packaging. Also, make sure u purchase the ones with 35 db cutoff. Thats the most I could find to cutoff loud sounds. I’m sure there are professional earplugs for people who do drilling and so forth but those are pricey when u need a few hundred. Trust me, 35 db loss scares them enough to understand the point.
    Also, if you google “what does hearing loss sound like” there are several good sites. Get the one that has a child, woman and man speaking. Big difference in speech discrim for those with a hearing loss. I use that first before the earplugs because those programs really do give u a good sense of what hearing loss at different degrees sound like.

  4. Great idea to have hearing people experience hearing loss for themselves.
    The university I work for has a physical therapy program and at least one day a year, they require their students to navigate the campus using wheelchairs or crutches. I wonder if audiology programs try something similar?
    You might be interested in these posts on asking one’s friends to try earplugs for a day:

  5. Maybe I’m wrong in my thinking and it may be to lack of experience. I’ve only had my hearing loss for 2 years. When I go to a movie and have my hearing aids in and it’s too loud I take them out. I think my loss is my problem. If I can’t here in a room it’s up to me to find a seat near the front. Maybe that’s not correct thinking. It makes me a better life than trying to change other people. At first I got tired of people saying oh yes my ears ring like that too. I quickly passed that stage where I wanted to say oh really, where at your $7,000 aids and Tinnitus Breakers. Then follow it up with I don’t remember seeing you falling down allot when your balance was messed up. I’ve had a person at work follow me down the hall saying “can you hear me now”
    I’ve found it’s better to keep it to myself. Other than family very few people want to know my story and before I’m done are off on another subject. My family cares, my family understand and can tell by the look on my face what is going on. Thank God for them. The rest doesn’t matter to me.
    This is not to upset anyone. Just helps me to get it off my chest.
    Thank you


  6. Yes Dennis,
    After putting up with the stupid comments for twenty-five or thirty years, it will get real old. If you continue to hold it in and be the nice guy all the time, it may begin to eat at you. Then you’ll become depressed or sick or both. If you’re lucky you’ll merely become cynical. Many of us channel our anger into educating the public or working on access issues.

    I really feel for you. Tinnitus is not an easy thing to live with. Neither is vertigo. You’re lucky to have a supportive family. 🙂

  7. As soon as someone asks me about them, i try to educate them in a non-confrontational way. It’s easy to explain it simply, and when people try to poke fun, explain why that’s not funny at all/experiences where stuff like that actually happened.

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