Bye-Bye Pretense!
Seeking New Strategies for Hard of Hearing Challenges

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Why don’t I admit I can’t hear? 

Help! How can I cope?
Help! How can I cope?

An excerpt from Mobility Matters: Stepping Out in Faith

One morning, I woke up with a sore throat and blocked ears. But I had only two classes to teach so I decided to go into work.

In my Spanish II class, Carolina came up to my desk and whispered something that seemed important by the way she bent in and gestured toward the whiteboard. I couldn’t quite make out what she said, though, since she was speaking through her braces.

I tapped my hearing aid and three little bells sounded indicating it was set at the highest level. “Excuse me, Carolina.  Can you say that again?”

No better the second time around. I was forced to say, “Sorry, I didn’t catch what you said.”

Carolina rolled her eyes and sucked air through her tin braces. But she leaned in and whispered again. Whispering was difficult to follow on the best of days but that day I felt especially awful and everything sounded muffled.

Did the students even know I wore hearing aids? They were tiny, sophisticate devices that I could hide behind my ears. Nothing showed except for the slender clear wire that held them on. I’d never mentioned wearing them to the students.  At their best, however, they brought my hearing to ninety-one percent. So, even on good days, I couldn’t fully hear quiet sounds.

When I couldn’t hear Carolina the third time, pride got the better of me and I nodded as if I had, giving her a reassuring smile.

Typical of me.

I looked at the whiteboard hoping it would give me clues as to what Carolina had meant by her whisper. She smiled at me and returned to her seat with a happy gait, having accomplished her mission.

Our lesson took up most of the class and I completely forgot about whatever Carolina had tried to tell me. But at a couple minutes to eleven, she began to cough and point frantically to the clock on the wall. I looked at the clock. We still had about ten minutes of class left, so I continued with our lesson. The class took a lively interest in the dramatic show of attention the time received. I re-directed their attention to the class activity at hand.

“¡Por favor, silencio!” I admonished.

Sí, sí!” they shouted, “¡Silencio!”

A wave of “Silencios” tore through the classroom, accompanied by several sets of double arms waving up and down and pointing to the clock in fairly synchronized movements. But with my vision, the arms looked fuzzy to me. What was everyone trying to say? Did I miss a fire drill?

***

This was me five years ago. (You’ll have to read my book to see how this lively situation ended with my students)!  If you are interested, you can order my book HERE. 

I don’t know how much more honest I’ve gotten since then, either. I still pretend I hear much of the time.  In the latter stages of her cancer, my sister became angry at me. To her, pretending that I heard when I didn’t was lying. I would have given anything to have been able to admit I didn’t hear.  But somehow my response always seems involuntary.

Is it embarrassment?

Pride?

Stubbornness?

Failure?

Denial?

For me, it’s a combination of all those emotions mixed together. Sometimes I still feel like a failure when I can’t hear properly and have to keep asking for repetition. I somehow feel like it’s a reflection on my personally and that I’m putting others ill-at-ease. I need a patient interlocutor.

It’s so difficult to get past.

But it’s lucky that I have a really great sense of humor because not admitting that I haven’t heard something has led to many outlandish situations — most which could have been avoided had I only been truthful.

What I’ve learned in my hearing loss journey.

1. Pretending doesn’t work anymore.  

When I was with those I saw often and had a degree of familiarity with, I could guess or anticipate their questions and often fudged my answers based on knowing their personality and giving a ballpark response. But with different variables (i.e. my sister being sick and speaking more quietly, that has stopped working),  Answering “yes,” or “no,” to a content question became quite noticeable.

2. Context-reduced situations trip me up. 

Now that I have phone and radio interviews in the vein of “let’s see where it takes us” with strangers, I don’t have facial expression to cue me in on the fact I haven’t heard the entire question, or have missed a key element / word.  I don’t know them well enough to predict what they are looking or fishing for in my answer. I also have to depend on re-phrasing and repetition and hope I hear the question properly the second or third time around.

3. My answers to questions don’t always make sense.

I latch onto a word or phrase and don’t even know I’m missing part of what is being said. I feel like a second language learner, missing key elements. However, in my defense I answer what I understand cheerfully. Here are some recent examples. 

“Do you participate in any sports, like cross-country skiing or such? What do you do when you get out?”
“Yeessss! Of course, I get out and about!
“We hear a lot about the Middle East and we think of ‘danger.’ What has your experience been?”
“Danger? As a matter of a fact. When I moved to Colombia, there seemed to be quite a bit of danger…!”

Where did you get those letters?
They’re certainly not mine. I don’t have any lighters.
Letters, Amy, I said letters!
Oh, those are mine.

Conclusion

There are a number of variables that we have no control over. Not hearing is one of mine. Perhaps when I pretend I hear, it’s makes me feel better about myself. Maybe part of that is denial. But I’m just deceiving myself because in the end, there’s a whistle-blower. I’m not sure if that’s me or the one I’ve just attempted to fool.

Being hard of hearing isn’t a reflection of any degree or lack of education, self-worth or personal success for failure.  It’s simply a fact of what I need to cope with. When I internalize this, I will begin to accept who I am and network with others to find solutions to the challenges that I face.

I want to make a change in my outlook and behavior.

I’m striving towards honesty.  My knee-jerk reaction is to keep pretending but starting now, I’m going to slow down, take a breath and it’s bye-bye pretense, hello  truth!

Are you struggling with hearing loss? Do you know anyone who is? If you’re anything like me, not only do you really want to make that positive change, you want others to understand that it’s a hurdle. If you are struggling, comment below. If you know someone who’s struggling, share this post.  We can become a team and cheer each other on!

You have just read, “Why don’t I admit I can’t hear?” by Amy L. Bovaird. © Copyright Feb 24, 2014. If you empathized with the content on this post, Comment, Like and Share it.

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11 thoughts on “Why don’t I admit I can’t hear?

  • February 25, 2015 at 1:32 am
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    I am intrigued. I have two friends/co-workers that are hearing impaired and they are the most amazing people and very special to me. I do my best to communicate with them.

  • February 25, 2015 at 2:26 am
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    Hi Nicole,
    That’s great. By the way, I was just corrected the other day: “Hard of Hearing” is much more accepted among the deaf community than the term, “hearing-impaired.” 🙂 Ask your friends how they cope. What do they do to communicate more effectively! I need all the info I can get. 😀
    So glad to have you visit my blog today, Nicole!
    Amy

  • February 25, 2015 at 3:12 am
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    Amy,

    I have read your book, and this is a GREAT strategy! 🙂

    I’m not diagnosed with any kind of hearing disability, but I don’t fully hear unless I am looking at you while you speak. It irritates some people close to me when we’re doing things like hiking.

    It bothers me when I can’t hear someone and I ask them to repeat something two or three times. Eventually I’ll just smile and nod and pretend I know what they’re talking about.

    Great post!

    Blessings,

    Carrie

  • February 25, 2015 at 4:38 am
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    Hi Carrie,
    For some reason your comments always go directly to my SPAM file. Now I check frequently.
    You were the very first person to my a review for my book, and it was a wonderful one!
    So you are kind of lipreading? Or if it’s not that, why do you think you need to see them speak? I think it’s because it’s a context-rich environment. And I am going to try that. I think my mom is an unconscious lipreader.
    So, you let it go on occasion, too. It really bothers my mother too. She insists until it whatever is said is clear to her.
    It used to drive me up a wall. I used to simplify what I said. Up until now, I’ve been more laid back about my own hearing. If I didn’t quite get it, it didn’t always bother me. But now that I’m speaking, that’s a whole other situation!!
    Amy

  • February 26, 2015 at 3:54 pm
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    Hi Amy,

    You really touched on some key points to consider with hearing loss. I need some new strategies, too. I was laughing with you when you mentioned how you mix up words like “lighter” and “letter.” I search for key words or phrases when I’m talking to people too. I know I don’t always get it right. I just wonder how many times I’ve messed up by answering something incorrectly, because I didn’t hear it right, and am still unaware of it. Add that to what we miss visually and it’s a wonder that we make it through any given day. LOL Because of my visual impairment, many people assume I have supersonic hearing. So when I tell them I’ve lost 60% of my hearing, they seem almost disappointed. LOL

  • February 26, 2015 at 4:24 pm
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    Ha ha, Matt!
    That’s right. Life is never dull for us, is it?
    Amy

  • February 27, 2015 at 8:08 am
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    Hi there! Great post and an eye opener. The exact article I am looking for. Anw, I am a Hard-of Hearing and still struggling to admit my disability. It is really hard for me to tell the truth because of some issues or am I just afraid to admit it? 🙁 Thanks.

  • February 28, 2015 at 2:32 pm
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    Young Preacher,
    It IS a struggle! I don’t know. Maybe it’s both! Well, to put it in perspective, at least it’s not life-threatening. That’s basically what my sister told me (who has since passed) so I try to look at it that way. Thanks for your comment! Come back and visit me again!
    Amy

  • February 28, 2015 at 2:35 pm
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    Hi Matt,
    I wish I could write down all the funny mix-ups that happen. Yeah, and when compounded with our vision loss, what stories come out of it!
    Amy

  • March 2, 2015 at 3:25 am
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    Hi Amy,
    I just want to say you are so inspiring to me. I want to say everything is a process and a journey. No matter how long we’ve been in the space of disabilities, each day is a process and journey of learning to adjust and accept.

    I think there is always some form of unacceptance. I think situations cause us to realize how accepting we are of our challenges whether you are disabled or not. And each time we recognize we need more acceptance , we are becoming stronger in doing so.

    continue sharing as you do and you are changing the world of disability and the world view of how to view people with disabilities. We all have challenges in life, some are seen and some are not. And we have to learn how to do things different to get the same tasks done that someone else can do without much effort.

  • March 2, 2015 at 1:55 pm
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    Hi Shiffon,
    You are so right! What wise words.
    “Everything is a process and a journey.” It’s also a comfort to read your second point. “Each time we realize we need more acceptance, we are becoming stronger.”
    Thank you for this encouragement today!
    Amy

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