Most of us who are hard of hearing live among the hearing and probably don’t have hard of hearing friends to hang out with, on a local level anyway. Some of us may be lucky enough to go to HLAA meetings and experience being around other hard of hearing people where we know to practice the rules for proper hard of hearing communication, we know how to talk to each other. When that’s done we slip right back into the hearing world.
Hanging out with with other hard of hearing people for an extended amount of time tends to set a routine within the first 6 hours (or less) and suddenly we have a new normal. This happens at hearing loss conventions and it’s heaven. Not only is there live captioning at all the workshops and during the banquets but loops are available too so it’s a world catered to hearing loss. To top that off, the people are awesome away from the workshop settings too. There’s almost no impatience with repeats or with the various modes of communication; hearing aids, cochlear implants, personal amplifiers, lipreading and even writing things down when all else fails. As most of you are already aware, I come home with a natural high after conventions.
Last month I went to Minnesota for a week to hang out with hard of hearing friends, most of who I met at past conventions only this was no convention. There were no workshops or fancy accommodations. This was several of us visiting for what we call a “fling” and it was my first time doing this and it’s just as wonderful as going to the conventions.
I kept a running list of my obsersevations while I was there. Here are 10 things I loved about hanging out with my tribe.
- We get each others attention before talking. Whether it was touching an arm or waving a hand around, we got the other person’s attention which avoids half the repeats.
- We faced each other while talking which also cuts down on unnecessary repeats.
- If we were out walking we’d stop to face each other to talk instead of continuing to walk. This keeps someone from walking into a sign, a light pole or falling off the curb. In my case, it kept me from slipping on ice a few times. We may not get anywhere fast this way but communication is better.
- No matter who’s house you go to, the captions are already on the television. Woo-hoo!
- We can advocate together. At a restaurant we told the waiters we lipread and we wanted captions on the TV. Together we complained to management about improper maintenance of CaptiViews at a movie theater. I think together we make more of an impression.
- No one talks with their mouth full because most of use lipreading to some degree. We start chewing fast while holding up a finger or waving a hand around in front of our mouth to signal ‘wait a second’ until food is gone. No flying food with us!
- If we are bunking in the same room together, snoring isn’t going to bother either one of us. Bonus!
- There’s very little talking while driving which may seem odd at first coming from the hearing world but it becomes comfortable. Hearing in cars has been one of my most difficult situations since I was a teenager, trying to hear above the radio, road noise and traffic noise. I’m exhausted in cars after a few hours of someone talking the whole time. It’s a huge strain on my mental capacity to hear in a car and will eventually wear me out physically too. It was quite nice to sit back and enjoy the scenery with the driver’s eyes on the road.
- I had lipreading backup. By far, my friend Michele is better than I am so when we went into a grocery store and both of us only heard/saw one word on the cashiers mouth the entire time I felt relief. Some people are just harder to lipread than others for various reason.
- We joined several other friends in a fancy, business style, dark hotel bar. We sat by the fireplace and all our eyes squinted in concentration with a few of us in the shadows. Only with a group of hard of hearing friends can I turn on my cell phone flashlight and put each speakers face in the spotlight with out complaints. (We also had some fun with shadow play.)
There were a few odd things about being with others who are hard of hearing.
- Without thinking about it, we vie for the best positioning. We want to be front and center. We want to face the room in restaurants for visual purposes. We always want the others persons face in the light.
- Usually we know when the other person doesn’t understand something that was said. We recognize the look in the far away look in the eyes, the deaf nod or the blank smile…but sometimes we don’t. Some of us are good bluffers but it will usually come out in the end anyway.
- Niether of us can hear the tea kettle screaming away on the stove. I’m used to my husband telling me when the microwave is done or a timer is going off but that option is not available with other hard of hearing people.
Here’s a couple of things that came to light about those of us who are hard of hearing.
- We are followers. When with a group of people who are going out to do something we lose track of the back and forth conversation and end up following. (Of course we blindly follow along only with people we trust.) Where are we going? I don’t know but we’ll find out.
- Without meaning to be, we are noisy in the kitchen. My husband tells me to “take it easy” every now and then when I’m cooking. I don’t think I’m loud but I am and now I know others get the same things from their family also. We don’t know we are being loud, trust me.
The week went by fast, too fast. Coming home I was in my element at the airport and in the plane. I told people what I needed and got a few surprises like the ticket agent telling me he was learning sign language just so he could talk better with those who were deaf. Without being aware of it, I was riding that natural high the whole time.
I came home to reality, sigh. I’m not complaining about my home life because Ken is good about most of the communication between us but it wasn’t my world anymore. Someone told me that’s the sign of a good vacation coming home a bit bummed because it’s over. I can agree with that. It sure makes me look forward to the next SayWhatClub convention.