My dad used to say a person can endure anything as long as he keeps his sense of humor. I now see how that applies to a malady which has crept up on me in the last few years: gradual hearing loss.
It afflicts both old and young. If you never have experienced the challenges of losing some of your natural hearing, just stuff cotton in your ears and go about your business. After a few hours your friends and relatives will say in exasperation, “I wish you could hear. I’m getting tired of repeating myself!”
A fellow sufferer summed it up this way, “You start wondering why people aren’t talking to you anymore, and then find out they really are, but you don’t hear them.
Those with hearing loss shy away from group conversations because their comments are based on what they thought they heard. Like this:
Friend One: “It sure is cold and windy today.
Friend Two: “No, it’s Thursday.”
You: “Me too. Let’s go get some coffee.”
Well-meaning people think that yelling will help. Actually it often makes things worse. Yelling only accentuates the vowels, while many consonants sound alike. So, WOULD YOU CLOSE THE DOOR!” sounds like, UUH OOH OH UH ORE!
You become adept at cracking the language code, hoping your responses won’t draw strange looks.
Since many people mistakenly associate hearing loss with brain loss, you hesitate to tell people about your problem. Being perceived as mindless is humiliating, since hearing loss can affect people of any age, and yours may begin when you're young.
So, how does a person keep her sense of humor with this new challenge? She enlists the help of a few close friends who know her situation. When my hearing loss began to surface, my teenage daughter would quietly “translate” for me at drive-up windows.
Savvy persons with hearing loss eventually develop a creative arsenal of phrases such as, “What’s that?” and “What did you say?” which sound more sophisticated that, “Huh?"
It helps if she has friends who are good at acting out charades behind the back of the person who is speaking. Just remember not to ruin your ruse by yelling, “One word! Sounds like grow!”
As my teacher used to say, laughter truly is a great medicine. Either that or “After grueling fizz you hate Edison.” At least that’s what I heard.
How about you? Know anyone who copes well with hearing loss? Feel free to comment below.