Social Bluffing by Katie (guest writer)

Becoming hard-of-hearing a few years ago really turned my world upside down.  Before the hearing loss, I was a real outgoing person in social settings.  Now, I find myself being left out (unintentionally) of some great conversations.  The reason I’m left out is because I cannot hear the conversation.  In a group of people, instead of asking the speaker to face me during the conversation or ask them to repeat what they said, I nod and smile and play along as if I can keep up with the conversation.  When the group laughs, that’s my cue to laugh as well (even though I have no idea what is so funny).   If I am having a one-on-one conversation with someone – say the cashier at the grocery store or the waitress at the coffee shop, I will ask them to repeat what is said.  If I cannot understand them after two tries, I give up.  The reason I give up is because for some unknown reason, I worry too much about whether I’ll irritate them and/or frustrate them in their needing to repeat, repeat, repeat.  My hearing loss, if you were to look at me, is “invisible”. You see, looking at me, you cannot see my hearing aid.  I look like a person with no medical issues or problems, so why would I need you to keep repeating yourself?

This being said, I have decided to be more honest with myself and with people I don’t know re: my hearing impairment.  I’ve decided that it is perfectly OK to tell the cashier, the waitress or whomever I’m speaking to that I have a hearing impairment, and could they please talk slower and speak up for me?  I have tried this new-found approach just this week.  I met a girlfriend for lunch, and I arrived first.  I went up to the hostess and requested a table that was not located in the center of the restaurant (booths work well for me as far as blocking out noise in restaurants).  I said “I have a hearing impairment, and it is better for me to sit at a table or a booth that is not in the open, but against a wall.”  The hostess then took me to the quietest area of the restaurant and sat me in a corner booth (perfect!) as I waited for my friend.   When I went to the grocery store later that day, the cashier asked me a question.  I asked her to repeat it, but still no comprehension on my part.  I then just said to her “I have a hearing impairment, and it’s very hard for me to understand what you are saying.”  She then talked a little louder and slower and just asked “Coupons?”  I got it that time!  In my experience, I’ve also discovered that when you are honest with people and tell them why they need to repeat what they said or word it differently for you, they are more than accommodating in the request.   I am learning to give people more credit than I did in the past, which has allowed me a more positive view of the world.

12 thoughts on “Social Bluffing by Katie (guest writer)

  1. 90% of the problem is that deafness/loss being invisible, and the reluctance of those with either to make it clear straight away, then, bluffing is just making it harder for yourself, in fairness mainstream are not mind-readers. Like yourself, I find if you make it clear immediately life is much easier…. It is just an habit you need to devlop when out there, making it clear you can’t hear properly.

  2. I have traveled along pretty much that same route, but have been pleasantly surprised to find out my admission of being “hard of hearing” generally brings out the best in people. This is one way that a handicap can be a blessing, i.e., to restore your faith in the general goodness of our fellow humans when faced with vulnerability.

  3. I really appreciate reading your post. My hearing loss is relatively new to me, within the past two years. My hearing comes and goes, I now wear a hearing aid. But just the other day, I was thinking about how when one has hearing loss, others can not tell and about how I needed a sign that alerted others that sometimes, I simply can not hear them, especially in a large open room. Every now and then someone whispers in my hearing aid ear and I can not hear a word. But just simply telling people that I am hearing impaired as you suggested works better. I guess I just need to get over myself.

  4. We need to turn our handicap around, i.e., rather than be embarrassed about being handicapped in this way, which was not our choice anyway, perhaps we’re overly concerned about inconveniencing other people. I would like to reiterate that most people respond positively and helpfully when told of your handicap, and it gives them a chance to help, which almost invariably is a rewarding human experience.

    Realistically, though, there are many venues when just a simple gesture of helpfulness is not enough to include us, and it becomes downright tiresome (for speaker and listener) to even try to participate in some activities once hearing is impaired. This is where the appropriate assistive devices other than hearing aids can be very helpful, and there are many out there for us to explore.

  5. Pearl
    Much of what you went through many of us are all on the same boat…I ran my business without a telephone in my name….did so for twelve years
    Everything changed once I got my cochlear implant…Like a new leaf on life ..Not all hearing impaired people can benefit from a Cochlear implant but for those who can its a life changing world
    When I first heard of a telephone that I can talk into and read what the person on the other side is saying…I thought I had died and went to heaven only to find out that captel phones were not available here in New York State…Letter writing hooked up with a good friend of mine from Oswego who knew the ins and outs of the bureaucracy I sent upteen letters emails to many people till we got the word they approved Captel phones for all new yorkers
    It was one of the greatest things I ever was involved with
    Captioning even after my implant is a must for me…I hear well one on one but still use captioning every chance I can
    Now my biggest beef is the internet and trying to figure out some of the videos uncaptioned…We should not be left out in the cold because people forgot us..We should keep a strong line and make sure all things are captioned….I hate the idea of being left out of anything especially things I can’t hear
    It angers me that still today many things are not captioned….

  6. You might want to ask people to rephrase not repeat, if you don’t understand what they say the first or second time. You have to be your own best advocate. After 40 years of hearing loss, it gets easier to make requests but remember people forget, and we have to remind them gently that we need certain accommodations so that we can be part of not apart from the conversations.
    It only gets easier if we keep in mind that most people are doing the best they can. We need their support to be part of the hearing world.

  7. Well, I’m new to all this bloging techno stuff. But I guess it’s just another way to meet people and make new friends (this is great). I’m so excited that I found this site, now I can relate with other people like me!!!

    Although, as I sit here reading about the experiences of others with a hearing loss I wonder what it is that I am doing wrong in my efforts to fit in with the hearing world. I lost my hearing when I was just five years old due to spinal meningitis, so I don’t ever remember hearing. Now I’m 50 years old and I work with children (12-18 months) at a pre-school (my dream job). However, the biggest problems I run into aren’t with the kids but the other teachers.

    It seems that no matter how hard I try to remind everyone I work with that I am hard of hearing the more they “forget” to include me in their conversations. Besides ignoring me, there have been numerous times when some of the teachers have gone so far as to be rude to me. So, in order to ‘get along’ I just ‘go along’ and keep up where I can.

    For 45 years I have gone through life being a happy person in spite of my disability. I refuse to let my hearing loss keep me down. I love life and I’m energetic, vibrant and young at heart. One might even say that I’m a 50 year old sweetheart going on 25 hottie (LOL). If there were anything more I could do to fit into the world of the hearing I would try. Ironically, I am a people person and I love to mix and mingle at social gatherings.

    Although it hurts when a few people who refuse to try to accommodate someone with a disability such as mine, it does build character and strength in the person with the disability (me). I’ve been told that it is the responsibility of those in the hearing world to communicate to us in the deaf world. I certainly hope that is true, because I have been working myself silly trying it the other way around.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see those efforts happening from those closest to me, my friends and co-workers. Hopefully someone has some advice that will help me find other ways to communicate with my co-workers.

    In almost every case where I have engaged conversation with someone outside of work, as soon as they learn that I am hard of hearing they go out of their way to ensure that I am made aware of what is being said. That makes me feel good whenever they do that because it seems they truly care about me and how I feel.

  8. Hi Barbara,

    My hearing loss is recent as well, and it is comforting to know that I am not alone with difficulty in hearing others. I recently bought BTE aids and I am hearing much better.


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