SayWhatClub

Difficult Situations: What to do? How to cope?

by Pat Dobbs

Over the years, I’ve received several requests for help when people with hearing loss are frustrated dealing with difficult situations.

Do any of the following situations sound familiar to you in Difficult situations?

Lunch

1. I go out to lunch with eight friends of more than 30 years quite frequently. I always arrive early so I can get the best table and choice seat and, if necessary, ask to have the music turned down. My friends know I have a hearing loss; it helps if they look at me when they talk and speak one at a time. They are also familiar with my microphone, which transfers their voices directly to my ears when they talk into it. Within a very short time, they seem to forget everything and I’m left out of the conversation, except maybe with the person next to me.

At first I try to follow the conversations, but it becomes mumbo jumbo and I eventually tune out. I go for an extended visit to the ladies room to rest. But really, how many times must I remind them? How long can I keep smiling? Sometimes I just want to scream at the top of my lungs and wonder if I should stop going altogether?

Family

2. It’s family get-together time and I know exactly what that means….trouble hearing. Everyone is talking at the same time, music is blaring, people are laughing….Yes, I can ask them to turn down the music, have conversations with one or two people in a quiet spot, or perhaps use my assistive listening device, but I am still left out of the fun of being with the group and taking part in their conversation. As much as I enjoy the one-on-one conversations, I still miss the group fun and end up feeling sorry for myself.

Appointments

3. I was at the doctor’s office waiting to be called in and, as I sat close to the receptionist, I spoke to her about my hearing loss. Wanting to be discreet, I asked her to get me if I didn’t hear her. As luck would have it, she had to leave the office and a different receptionist took over. She didn’t know my needs and I missed her calling my name. I probably should have written a note explaining that I may not be able to hear them call my name, but it’s impossible to anticipate every situation. My doctor, bless him, does know to look at me when he talks and he has a PocketTalker, which helps immensely.

Assumptions

4. It came to my attention that I’m considered a snob because I don’t respond when people call me. Of course I explained why I haven’t responded, but their assumptions and accusation hurt.

Difficult Situations
It can be hard to cope with hearing loss, but strategies can allow a sufferer to enjoy the life they’ve always lived.

Do any of these strategies work in difficult situations?

All the strategies these people used are excellent, but they don’t always work and we can end up feeling left out. If/when that happens, all the negative stereotypes of hearing loss, like feeling inadequate, less of a “real” person, unintelligent, defective, snobbish, etc., rears their ugly heads.

When those situations happen to me, I admit I often go to a bad place. I allow myself a set amount of time to feel sorry for myself. It may be 5 minutes, an hour or a day. But after that amount of time I have to drop my victim mentality and go to a positive place. The Nine Guiding Principles help with this.

Here are a few things that help me in difficult situations:

  1.  I keep a personal inventory of the things I excel in and give to the world. I know, when you’re feeling low it’s hard to think of anything good about yourself. If necessary, ask a friend to help you create a list of your unique strengths and keep the list with you on your cell phone or in your wallet so it is handy for those times in need.
  2.  I never compare myself to others; that only makes me feel bad. Rather I remind myself I’m a unique individuel with unique talents. As an example, most people hear better than I do. But because I must pay close attention to what people are saying to lip-read, I give them my undivided attention making them feel completely heard. Being completely heard is one of the best gifts we can give.
  3.  I refer to the Nine Guiding Principles of the Hearing Loss Evolution. These principles help me regain my sense of self-worth and self-love as it provides a practical guide for living with hearing loss.
  4.  I often speak to a friend, especially those with hearing loss as they’ve all been in similar situations and understand.
  5. You can seek a professional counselor or go to a religious counselor. Meditation can be helpful, too.

Bottom line:

We must internalize that our hearing loss does not define us negatively. Although it’s a part of who we are, how we live our lives define us, not our hearing loss. It is not easy to change our perspective, but it is an achievable goal, one that is important for us to live a full filled life.

How do you deal with similar difficult situations?

Pat Dobbs is an advocate for people with hearing loss and writes a blog on www.HearingLossEvolution.com. She is proud to be President of the SayWhatClub

Don’t be Afraid to Travel with Hearing Loss: How Communication can be Better Overseas

Photo by Agustín Diaz on Unsplash

I have traveled quite a bit over the course of my life. From family vacations – to mission trips – to several years working abroad in Indonesia and Ghana, I have tried to see as much of the globe as I can. I even met my husband in Ghana and got married there. Traveling is in my blood. But as someone with moderate hearing loss, travel can also pose some unique challenges. I always worry that I won’t hear my boarding call when waiting for my flight and end up in the wrong zone or miss my flight altogether (while I have gotten in the wrong group to board, I have yet to miss my flight). Here are some tips for traveling with hearing loss and some ways communication is actually easier overseas!

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask for Help

Gate agents are there to help you. If you worry that you won’t hear your boarding call, explain your situation to the agent. They can make sure you board on time and in your correct group. The same goes for train or boat travel. Even if you are in a non-English speaking country, most people who work in the tourism industry can speak English and are willing and able to help you. If you can’t find an agent, your fellow travelers are usually able to help. When I have traveled by train, there is always someone willing to tell me if I am at the correct stop. Generally, people are friendly and want to assist fellow travelers.

There are Usually Signs Everywhere

The airport always has signs directing you to your gate and letting you know your departure time and gate location. The same is usually true for train stations (but not always, especially in a developing country). But if you can’t find the signs to direct you where you need to go, there are always agents around that can help. Or you can usually find maps and directions in English inside the terminal.

Hand Signals: an Effective Form of Communication

When I lived in Indonesia, I walked everywhere. I would often get a bit lost as I was exploring and have to stop to ask directions from someone who didn’t speak English. I found if I said “Paris Van Java?”, the main mall in Bandung, the city I was in, they could always point me in the right direction. Even general conversations could be had mainly using hand signals. If ASL is your primary language, you can usually get away with writing down a few words and using gestures to explain yourself. On the plus side, many people in non-English speaking countries can write English better than they can speak it. And people are often more willing to have a written conversation overseas than they would in the U.S. Especially in Indonesia, I found there were a lot of people who jumped at the chance to practice their English, whether by writing or speaking. Teach them some signs and you may find a new friend who is willing to show you around and introduce you to new adventures.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask People to Repeat Themselves

I say “What?” a lot. I’ve found that if I am constantly asking someone to repeat themselves in the U.S., they tend to get annoyed. On the contrary, when I don’t understand someone overseas, they assume it’s because of their accent. They are usually more gracious to repeat themselves multiple times or say something in a different way so you can understand them. They also don’t tend to dismiss you by saying, “Never mind.”

If People Don’t Understand You, They Think it’s Because of Your Accent

Because I can’t hear certain soft speech sounds, I don’t always enunciate my words properly. Or I may not pronounce a word correctly. While some people are understanding, others are not. However, when I am abroad, people just assume it’s because of my accent. I would say ‘American accent’ but I’ve frequently been told that I don’t sound ‘American’. Most people tend to guess that I am German by the way I talk and by the way I look (my heritage is mainly German so that makes sense). But I have never had anyone ask me if I have hearing loss based on my accent (or on the fact that I can’t understand them).

Find the Local Deaf Advocacy Group or Visit A Deaf School

Different countries have different resources for people with hearing loss. If you are in Europe or another wealthy country, the local Deaf advocacy group may have different resources for you as a traveler or be able to recommend places to go and people you can connect to. If you are in a developing country, there are often very few opportunities and resources for those with hearing loss. Oftentimes isolated, a person with hearing loss has little communication with their society and denied educational or work opportunities. By visiting a school or group, you can provide encouragement and connection. And you can advocate for change by your example.

It may seem intimidating to travel when you have hearing loss. But you will usually find that people are willing to help and it is easier to communicate than you initially thought. Don’t be afraid to get out and explore!

About the Author

Jenny Beck is a chiropractor and advocate for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community. She has had moderate hearing loss since a very young age. She is passionate about health, travel, writing and spending time with her family.