I have always had a hearing impairment. I was born with a 70% hearing loss in both ears. While I had a mother who was sensitive to my disability, I never believed there was anything wrong wth me. As a child, I refused to wear hearing aids.

When, at 19 years-of-age, I bought one hearing aid, it was as if someone turned the sound up. I felt even more invincible. By the time I was 30, I knew I needed aids in both ears. It was not for 25 more years that I would learn that hearing aids alone were not enough.

Granted, most persons who don’t hear very well do need hearing aids. If they think they will look stupid wearing aids, these people have no idea how stupid they appear to others without them. When one gives crazy answers to sane questions ~ and misunderstands what others say ~ they don’t appear to be very bright. Amplification normally helps a great deal, even if perfect hearing is not attainable for many of us.

Consider this: Use of hearing aids might prevent you from being diagnosed as senile when you get older or loose the understanding companion who has always made allowances for you.

Yet, even with good hearing aids, I have only now come come to understand that it is my responsibility to not do those things which irritate normal hearing people ~ when I can control those very things.

If I am in another room, I have no business asking questions ~ or initiating conversations ~ which I will likely not hear right. To do so can only cause a person with normal hearing to take on unearned aggravation.

If I wish to engage in a conversation, I should make certain that the other person is close enough for me to have the best chance of hearing. And when others speak to me, ask that they do so in a hearing environment where I will understand ~ “Because I don’t want to ask you repeat yourself.” I expect the same courtesy of others that they should reasonably expect of me.

When I enter a room and see some people cocking their heads, looking at the ceiling confused, I should be sensitive enough to realize that my hearing aids are probably on too loud without someone asking, “What’s that noise?” Yes, often in an effort to hear better, I have cranked my hearing aids up to a point of “Feedback” which ~ although I can not hear it ~ many people do. Frustrated, associates have screamed, “You’re beeping!” Perhaps, my right to hear should be restricted to the point where other people’s sanity endures?

I have great difficulty communicating on the telephone. It was not uncommon for me to already be on the phone and to request assistance of the closest person to me to be my ears ~ for just a moment. I expected that person to drop everything and help me. How unfair? I have sense learned to say, “In a few minutes, I need to make a call. When you are free, would you mind being my ears if I need some?” I no longer expect everyone to allow me to interrupt them just because ~ through my lack of planning ~ I need help “Now!”

While I am on the subject, we who require special effort on other’s part to engage in conversation with us, need to learn not to begin talking to them if they are engaged in an activity which will necessitate their relocation to accommodate us, allow us to see their lips, etc.

Hopefully, I’ve learned I don’t have to talk all of the time. All of my life, I had attempted to masquerade as a normal person. The fact is, if you can’t hear ~ you are not normal! While really not wanting my captive audience to talk ~ because I knew that I would not be able to hear what they said ~ it was much easier to talk than to listen.

Now, I tell the truth. “I can’t hear what you are saying. It is not your fault, but my poor hearing. Please speak more loudly to me. And if I give you an inappropriate response, I will not be offended if you tell me that you don’t think that I understood what you said. In fact, I’d really appreciate it.”

My best advice to persons who can’t hear: Don’t try to “Fake it.” Maybe, you will get away with making like you understand the conversations? Yet, more than likely ~ and more often than you will ever know ~ others will think that you really didn’t care what they had to say.

Being hearing impaired is hard ~ not just on we “Deafies” ~ but those who put up with us too.

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