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Vacation with a Hearing Loss

The airplane

A few weeks ago I went to Maui with my aunt and her grand daughter. After having so much trouble hearing on the plane from Chicago to Salt Lake, I warned my aunt right away about not hearing well at all on planes.

“I’m basically deaf on the plane,” I tell her. “The engines take away all my hearing.”

“You told me before,” she said.

I had? Oh, good. That must have been on my mind for awhile.

We take off in the plane and when we hit the correct altitude, the stewardess came down the isle. I could smell food so I correctly assumed it would be the food cart coming first and not the drink cart. I studied the menu to make sure there would be no other choices I’d have to make with my meal.

The stewardess parked her cart near me and I ordered my food using prediction instead of hearing when she came to me. I did good on that part then she asked me a question that didn’t relate to food. Her mouth moved and I heard nothing, not a single sound except the roar of the engines. I asked for a repeat and her mouth moved again. I still didn’t have a clue. My aunt tried repeating it for me, after I looked to her for help. Still nothing.

“I’m sorry,” I told the lady, “I’m deaf and I can’t understand what you are saying.”

She tried one more repeat and I shrugged with a goofy smile.

Clearly, I wasn’t going to get it so she shook her head and I think she said, never mind. (Now how come I know those words so well?) She pushed a button on her credit card machine and handed me a receipt.

Oh!!! Was that all? Did I want a receipt… how silly. What a stupid thing to haggle over. She should have just printed the damn thing and gave it to me to begin with. Ugh! OK, I’ll be nice.

When the drink cart came I went with a soda and when it returned later I kept it simple with water. Another stewardess later came down the isle asking another question. I don’t remember what it was but instead of playing the repeat game, I told her I was deaf so she nodded her head and went onto a mime. Wonderful! I liked her best of the three.


I went on a couple of tours while on the island and of course all tours come with lectures, bits of information being tossed out and others asking questions I never hear. For the most part I won’t ask others with me to repeat unless it’s something I really want to know because I don’t want to intrude on their experience. I suffer quietly or I get irritated because I want so much to know what’s being said and I can’t or I accept it graciously. I never know which emotion I’ll get until the time comes. Too often I psyche myself up to not hear so I’m not so disappointed when I can’t.

The first tour was a boat ride out toward another island for snorkeling. We were hoping to see a few whales along the way, and we did, and dolphins, we saw them too. On this boat there were multiple speakers. Luckily, they happened to be near enough to me that I could use speech reading to get more out of the lectures than I thought I would. I was pleasantly surprised I could understand a good portion of it. It took a lot of concentration but I did it. We were on the boat for about 5 hours so I did come home from that trip tired and worn out from concentrating so much. I took a nap afterward and still felt tired the rest of the day.

The next tour was a trip around the island, the road to Hana. We, myself and my aunt’s grand daughter, rode with 8 others in a large, airy van with comfortable seats. As we approach the bus I plan to snag a front seat for better hearing and seeing.  As we get on I see we others taking up most the seats.  We’re the last stop.  So it’s the back of the bus babe. Our Hawaiian driver, Joe, had a microphone on and started giving us history right away about the island as we drove to our continental breakfast.

I brought my FM system but forgot to ask him if he would wear it when I got on. It’s hit and miss without the FM so I sort of kick myself for that 20 miles. He named monkey pod trees, I heard mesquite trees and banyan. He said one of them (the banyan?) had the ability to lay down when it got tired. A tree getting tired? I wish I had heard more about that.

We arrive at the golf club which hosts the continental breakfast and he tells us to be sure we get on the right bus when we come back because they all look alike. He says the name of the bus and I miss it but I do hear him say it’s on both fenders. Joe tells us to hurry before the other buses come and it gets crowded. Then he says something about door and bathrooms and I miss the rest so instead I follow the others, being careful to check the fender of the bus, and they lead me to the breakfast.

I eat only a little and I eat it fast so I can get back to the bus before the others and talk to Joe about my FM system. He readily agrees to wear it. I feel better.

So we get going again and though Joe’s voice comes through richer and louder but I still miss a lot of what he says. If I really focus, I can understand a lot of what he says but this is almost a ten hour tour and I don’t want to wear myself out like I did the day before. Sometimes I focus on him and sometimes I enjoy the lush green scenery. Oh well, I tried and at least I remembered to bring the FM system which did help a little.

He stops at one point while I am enjoying the scenery instead of focusing on his words, and I hear, “wah wah wah pineapple trees, wah wah wah.” It’s almost like listening to the Charlie Brown adults. I look around to see if I can pick out the pineapple trees but there’s so many other trees that I can’t tell. It takes me another 3 hours on a small hike to figure out which ones are the pineapple trees and that’s because I stop to take a picture of some funky little trees and see a pineapple growing on one. Oh, those are pineapple trees and I have been seeing them all along.

I enjoyed the trip, the scenery, the waterfalls and small hikes even though I couldn’t hear. Probably because I missed things he said about each hike, I found different paths and some new sites. I anticipated hearing difficulties, so I didn’t feel left out. The scenery made up for it all anyway.

Back on the Airplane

On the flight home, I plugged into my iPod. If I’m not going to understand any voices, I might as well enjoy my music. This time I get three barely nice stewardesses. I let them know I’m deaf but I follow their eyes to my iPod. They don’t say anything but clearly they don’t believe me. How can tell them the earbuds (evil things that they are) block out the jet engine noise so I can hear my music better than her. I don’t think there’s any possible way to have her talk to me while filtering out jet noise.

So that’s a piece of what vacationing in like with hearing loss.

0 thoughts on “Vacation with a Hearing Loss”

  1. Chelle, isn’t it amazing how hearing people just don’t get it? I would like to recommend one thing. Stop asking for repeats and ask for rephrasing or ask for the “subject” of the conversation. On the other end, your vacation sounded like a wonderful time. We, as hearing impaired people, deal with alot of stress trying hard to hear. At the end of the day, it’s quite tiring. Great blog post. Thanks for sharing

  2. Great post, Chelle. I liked your pictures, too, and the one of the bus fender made me realize that since most of us carry something that will take a picture, that’s a great way to remember where you parked the car (take a picture of the nearest sign in the airport, for example), or like you, what bus you’re supposed to get back on, and so on.

  3. You are right and I should know that but I think I go into a kind of panic and forget everything. I need to work on asking for topics. Thanks Pearl.
    I had a great time there, what a beautiful place.

  4. Yeah, and I tried being sly about taking the picture of the name of the bus too. 🙂 It would work great for remembering places too, hadn’t thought of that.

  5. I’ve only been “deaf” for a year, and it took me awhile to reconcile to the fact that I would miss a lot, but I’m there now. I just have to be careful not to open my mouth inappropriately when I think I’ve heard something, as that can be embarrassing. It is very tiring to struggle to hear as much as possible, always watching lips, staying in context, trying to do all those things at once. Most people are very accommodating when I say I’m hard of hearing, and it’s not so much the volume as the speed and enunciation, but that is one-on-one. In a group, I’m like you. I don’t want to impose my problem on a group of other people.

  6. I just LOVE this post so much. It describes exactly what it’s like to be deaf on a trip, and all the little things I hate about it such as trying to explain to people that you’re deaf while holding an iPod. CLASSIC! 🙂

  7. When I tell people I’m hard of hearing, they just want to talk louder so I started going with half deaf because then they knew they had to look at me. When they ask if I read lips I nod… I’m not the best lip reader but every little bit helps! More often than not, most people are willing to help.
    My ex-husband was the best person for helping me in public. He knew I didn’t expect to hear everything but whenever I turned to him with a certain look, he knew I wanted to know something without me even having to ask. Even 10 years later he knows the look and will fill me in.

  8. Yeah, classic. lol It happens a lot on the ski lift too. I’ll be listening to my music and someone will talk to me. I take my earbuds out and they repeat only to repeat again so I tell them I’m half deaf. Finally I understand them and them plug in my music again. It’s freaking weird that way. 🙂

  9. mhaainsbbos42 on December 15, 2010 I like your motive that’s really great in that way we all got success with this small effort. Nice slides

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