Accents & Hearing Loss

My husband and I took a belated honeymoon/anniversary trip to Costa Rica a few weeks ago.  I decided to go minimal knowing we’d be moving to a different part of the country every few days.  I left my usual purse at home, using a super small, flat purse to carry only a few essentials.  Knowing it was going to rain every day and be super humid, I decided to leave my hearing aids at home.

I know some of you out there are gasping at the thought of leaving hearing aids behind.  Hearing aids are just too expensive to lose and I didn’t want to chance it.  I’m fairly comfortable not wearing hearing aids here at home but I’ll admit, I was a little worried about how I’d hear English with accents there.  Lucky for me I was going with a hearing person. Still I didn’t want to lean on him too much, I was sure I’d find ways to communicate as needed.

Our first driver spoke very little English.  I was super tired after flying all night in a tin can, packed tightly together.  Airline seats don’t go back far enough to sleep without pecking corn (my head falling forward again and again as I tried to sleep).  When I’m that tired, I can’t hear at home either so I only knew our driver was talking but understood very little of what he said.  Ken said he couldn’t really understand him either.  I fell asleep in the van which was more comfortable than the plane believe it or not.  We stopped for a picture at one point and when I had a hard time understanding him, he resorted to gesturing.  Perfect!  Gesturing is universal.

We went to a restaurant and the menu was in both Spanish and English. I thought I’d try the Spanish words since I was in their country.  “I’ll get the hamburguesa atun.”  He looked down at me and said, “You want the tuna sandwich.”  I almost laughed out loud.  I think he meant “Don’t massacre my language.”  I didn’t try ordering in Spanish again sticking to English.

We stayed in three different towns in different parts of the country.  We stayed in Manuel Antonio the first few nights which mostly resting up from our plane ride over.  Then went to la Fortuna the next couple of nights where three activities were planned; the hot springs at Tabacon, a trip to the Arenal volcano and the Fortuna waterfall.  We had an English-speaking guide for the volcano and waterfall, he was very good about facing me.  He was a biology student so he and Ken got along well, he even convinced Ken to eat a few termites…no I didn’t even try.  Ken said it was ‘woodsy flavored.’

Over the course of the trip I realized the same rules apply abroad as they do in the states.

  1. If having a hard time, I told them I couldn’t hear well.
  2. I told them I use lipreading.
  3. If I could relax, I could hear/lipread them, especially after spending more time with them.

My favorite hard of hearing moment  of the trip was while we were Tamarindo and went out on a catamaran for snorkeling.  I’m not one to jump in the ocean so I stayed on the boat while the others splashed around.  I was happy with mojitos, the view, the sun at least and getting to know some of the crew who were super accommodating. I was sitting at the back of the boat relaxing and one of crew members sat down next to me.  He said, “I know you don’t hear well and that you are learning my lips…”

And I thought perfect, yes!  I’m always learning people’s lips.  I’m learning their lips, the words they use, their facial expressions and their accents.  I was certainly learning his lips.  To continue…

“…and you’re learning my lips but I don’t know how you understand me so well.”

Well… I grew up near the Mexican border in California so maybe Spanish accents are a little easier than I thought they would be?  That’s what I told him but after more thinking maybe it’s a combination of things.  Maybe I spent enough time with him?  Or was it that he made sure he faced me?  Maybe some people are easier to lip read accent or no accent no matter what.

I had a grand time and I would not hesitate traveling in other countries.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Travel forth my hearing loss friends!

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My friend on the boat.

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Me on the boat.

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A restaurant in Manuel Antonio.  The tourists loved the monkeys and the locals thought of them as pests.

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Hot spring bliss.

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Fortuna waterfall

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Melwin was another person who was easy for me to understand.

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In the jungle leading up to the Arenal volcano. Andrey was easy to understand as well.

 

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