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“... and I thought you were being rude!”

by Sue Ashcroft

Just to be clear – this was meant as a joke and no offence was taken. The voyage across the Strait of Georgia on the Centurion is a cacophony even for hearing people; but for those with hearing loss, it is torturously difficult to have any sort of conversation in transit. After struggling for many minutes to hear what a friend was saying, I had to admit that I had essentially not heard a word, and feebly apologized.

   

Hearing loss is very stigmatizing. Common reactions include denial, shame, dissembling, and withdrawal. At best, one may be perceived as being rude or snooty …. I’m certain that stigma is the main reason why people with slight hearing-loss tend to avoid, refuse or resist getting hearing aids. Some who do so may end up not wearing them on a regular basis or not using them at all.

   

Hearing instruments (aka hearing aids) are marvellously intricate devices; and, thankfully, the technology has evolved exponentially over the last 40+ years. Unfortunately, they do not restore or correct one’s hearing in the way that prescription lenses manage common vision conditions. Increased volume leads to distortion and discomfort. Background noise will always impact the ability to hear conversations even with the most sophisticated hearing instruments. Fatigue or congestion exacerbate the problem. Many hearing-aid wearers rely on lip reading to augment hearing; therefore, poor lighting, obstructions, and the dreaded mumbling may cause further interference. These difficulties may be mitigated in cases of mild or moderate loss.

   

This is not a bad news story. Hearing instruments work, despite some limitations. For those with severe or profound loss, such aids are essential. There are many other assistive technologies and coping strategies to complement the efficacy of hearing aids. For example, on that same trip, a crew member patiently spoke directly into a transcription app on my cell phone, and I was able to “hear” without any problem. For me, managing my expectations, forgiving myself and maintaining a sense of humour are personal coping strategies. Lately, I have been noticing a blossoming of little devices in or behind the ears. Bravo and welcome to the club!

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