by Chelle George-Wyatt
My family accommodates my hearing loss and I don’t acknowledge that enough because it’s my normal. So I want to say right now to my family, thank you for helping so much over the years. You are all wonderful people and I appreciate you. At work and in person, other hard of hearing people tell me they don’t get accommodations from their family. It makes me feel sad and then I wonder what I’ve done to make it possible in my family.
For instance; My now 3 adult kids and I played Cards Against Humanity a week or so ago. (Cards Against Humanity is the adult version of the Apples to Apples card game we played when they were little. You can look it up on Amazon and read the reviews which are funny themselves.) Each person takes turns being the ‘card czar’ which means they read out loud a black card with one, two or three blanks and the rest of the players fill in the blanks with the cards in their hands. Each kid as card czar automatically handed me the card to read when they finished reading it out loud. I didn’t make that a rule. Maybe I asked to read the card myself enough times it became a habit???
Am I just lucky? After talking to my mom it’s not luck, it’s a combination of things. She refreshed my memory which triggered other memories.
Anger once helped get my point across. Years ago we were out camping one night, sitting around the fire. It was my family, my sister’s family and our parents. We had a big fire so faces were lit and I probably only had a mild/moderate hearing loss back then so I could follow conversation filling in the gaps most of the time, except sometimes I couldn’t. I asked for a repeat and I got the dreaded “Never mind.” My mom said I became really angry and told everyone how unfair that was. I was trying to hear, I wanted to hear and that’s why I asked for a repeat. Don’t ignore me! My mom never said ‘never mind’ again and I don’t remember the rest of the family saying those words much either.
Anger is not the recommended way to get accommodations. I’m supposed to be nice when asking for help and most of the time I do. However, now and then I think anger is needed to make an impression. We can tell others how we feel but sometimes we’re not taken seriously until we blow up. That’s what happened while we were camping and it had a lasting affect.
Tears drove another point home. About ten years or so ago we had a family reunion in Colorado which required a full day of driving. At some point I took my turn at the wheel while my dad sat in the backseat directly behind me. He asked me to back off the car in front of me because a rope was flying loose on the trailer and he was afraid the load might come loose. I didn’t hear him after a few times so he reached out and smacked the back of my head to get my attention yelling out what he’d been saying. I felt my face flush and tried to keep the tears back. Here I was 30 something years old and getting smacked in the head for something that wasn’t my fault. My mom who was sitting in the front passenger seat yelled at my dad that I couldn’t hear and he needed to speak up. I could not wait to get out of the car and get out of the drivers seat. When reminiscing about it, she said, “It wasn’t the best way to get your attention but he was worried about an accident.”
Every since I was teenager I’ve had trouble hearing front to back or vice versa in the car. To top it off my dad doesn’t project his voice at all while he’s talking having learned as a kid, “kids are meant to be seen and not heard.” He grew up with that and still abides by it. As my hearing got worse, it was harder and harder to hear my dad anyway, never mind being in the car. I can’t remember him losing patience with my hearing since that incident.
Help from hearing people in my life made an impression on my kids. As typical kids, they tried getting away with things by staying just under my hearing threshhold. The older two kids tortured their little brother in the car making sure I couldn’t hear until he yelled thus making me yell at him. They loved pushing his buttons and knew how to do it quietly. The other adult passengers would tell me what really happened so I started keeping an eye on the kids with the rear view mirror. Another time my sister was with me and one of my kids started talking smack about me and of course I didn’t hear. My sister turned around and laid into them all telling them I was their mother and they had better respect me. It happened another time with my mom in pretty much the same fashion. That’s when the kids learned that not all adults had hearing loss.
Education has been the biggest key to getting other people to understand my hearing loss; what I can and can’t hear and why I hear the way I do. For 15 years I didn’t understand my own high frequency hearing loss for no doctor or audiologist took the time to explain it to me. All I knew was I couldn’t hear birds, bugs, children’s voices and some women. About 7 years ago I ran across the book Missing Words and it made a huge impact on me. Now I understood my hearing loss and why I could hear but not understand and why words had missing holes. After that, I could tell others how I heard and why. I shared the news with my family and when they understood where I was coming from they were better about facing me when talking with more patience than before. I also went on a writing spree opening this blog to try to share with others what hearing loss is like. Maybe there were other hard of hearing people who had never been told either so I wanted them to understand their hearing loss too. We aren’t alone and we can keep on sharing with each other. I haven’t stopped learning.
Persistence plays another role (within reason). Hearing people have hearing habits so it takes some time to break those habits to replace them with new ones. Most of the time it takes gentle reminders but occasionally it takes hitting the roof over a pet peeve that happens repeatedly. I hate to say it but it can take years to get those close to you to adapt totally but when it happens, it’s worth it.
Over the years I ran across hearing people who never understood hearing loss and didn’t want to learn about it either. The doors in the mind slammed shut. One of those was an ex-husband of mine who liked to use my hearing loss against me like asking me about getting a golf membership from across the house and when I didn’t answer that meant it was okay! Why bang my head against a brick wall my entire life? We had other issues as well so it was time to move on.
There was a lady I worked with who acted like hearing loss was contagious and it pained her to talk to me within 25 feet. I worked around her as much as possible doing us both a favor. There was another co-worker who thought I could hear because I did so well one on one that she insisted I answer the phone which was pure torture for me (before CaptionCall phones were available). I wound up quitting that job because I couldn’t make her understand and trying to manage the phone was stressing me out. That’s 3 bad people I’ve encountered in about 20 years. I don’t dwell on them nor do I let them color my world. Most people are good people and want to help.
That’s what has worked for me. After some personal memory mining with the help of my mom, it wasn’t the smoothest ride but it wasn’t the roughest either. It helps that I have such an open minded family who are willing to help.
How’s your family life? What’s helped you?