Friday, 31 March 2017

It's difficult not being able to be a good listener

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How hearing loss affects Helen...

People who know me well realize that I am not an eloquent speaker or much of a coffee-shop conversationalist. I rarely sit around and talk about the weather. I don't know a whole lot about gardens, farm machinery, golf or fast cars and I don't engage in a whole lot of gossip. I used to consider myself a good listener until for whatever reasons I lost my ability to hear very well. 

Along with the hearing loss came a loss of confidence in my ability to participate in a conversation. If you are deaf or hard of hearing sometimes it seems like you are shut out socially – perhaps you shut yourself out socially. You become afraid to contribute because you are not sure what the topic is about. If you talk off the subject you become very embarrassed.

People who know me well realize that I am not an eloquent speaker or much of a coffee-shop conversationalist. I rarely sit around and talk about the weather. I don't know a whole lot about gardens, farm machinery, golf or fast cars and I don't engage in a whole lot of gossip.

I used to consider myself a good listener until for whatever reasons I lost my ability to hear very well. Along with the hearing loss came a loss of confidence in my ability to participate in a conversation. If you are deaf or hard of hearing sometimes it seems like you are shut out socially – perhaps you shut yourself out socially. You become afraid to contribute because you are not sure what the topic is about. If you talk off the subject you become very embarrassed.

It is also embarrassing to have to ask people to repeat what they just said to you, particularly if you have to ask a third time. Personally, I have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds. Therefore, it is easier for me to understand a deep male voice than the higher voices of women and particularly small children.

Hearing aids have made life a little more pleasant. At least I can hear sounds. However, they are still a long, long way from being a cure all. More often than not I can hear someone speak but I have great difficulty in understanding all the words they are saying. When you are able to understand only bits and pieces it makes it quite difficult to follow the conversation.

Shouting really doesn't help at all. In fact, the higher and louder the pitch the more difficult it becomes to understand the words. Also, if I don't hear your first spoken approach, then my first response to that sudden blast of yelling is that the speaker is angry with me for not answering them.

The best way to communicate with those hard of hearing is when you realize that he or she doesn't hear well, don't raise your voice and change the tone. Try speaking slower and rephrasing what you said. The different arrangement and selection of words may make it easier for the hearing impaired to hear you and communicate with you.

Living in a silent world can be lonely but it doesn't have to be. Those hearing aids that I spoke of earlier enable me to continue to hear the music that I love so much. Closed-captioning has made it much easier for me to understand the plots of my favorite TV shows. However, there have been several humorous misinterpretations as the result of closed-captioning. I won't mention them here because this is a family newspaper.

Facebook and texting also have opened new worlds for the deaf and hearing impaired. I don't get on Facebook very frequently but texting has been a blessing. Perhaps the most frustrating part of dealing with hearing loss is the use of a telephone. Under the best of circumstances communicating over the phone for the hard of hearing can be quite a harrowing experience.