So the other day I went to yet another party where I was unable to interact. Not only was I extremely bored but I also felt like a bit of a moron and, if I’m honest, a loser. Not to mention, claustrophobic.
It’s not that I don’t want to interact. But what you have to understand is, when you have a hearing aid, interaction can sometimes be very hard. You can hear everything.
From the clatter of someone’s high-heeled shoe on the hard floor. To the crackling of the opening of a chip packet and the crunching of the people eating them. And, if there is music, well forget it.
Yet in actual fact all I’m really hearing is nothing. A whole lot nothing!
But it’s not like the din in a night club. You can’t just raise your voice.
Often with a hearing aid as sounds get louder they also become more distorted. So chances are even if I can hear you I won’t be able to understand you.
People do try though. Bit it doesn’t last long. Either I will give up because of frustration or, having repeated themselves 100,000 times, others think I’m a moron because I can’t understand plain English. And technically I guess I can’t.
I hate getting invited to parties. It makes me incredibly anxious.
Do I go knowing that I will not be able to participate and not enjoy myself? Or do I decline, risk being branded as “The friend that always cancels” and risk not being off ever again?
And what if I do go and people feel that they need to babysit me because I look lonely? That’s no fun for anyone!
I don’t speak for every hearing impaired person, but I prefer not to be invited at all.
Though I do reserve the right to be jealous when looking at photos of the event on Facebook and feeling a little bit miffed that I wasn’t involved. What can I say? I’m complicated!
In an effort not to kill my social life completely though, here are some tips for socialising with a friend or family member who has a hearing impairment:
1. Try and pick a venue that is quiet or at least not too crowded. Places that have any music playing or worse, a band, will mean that your companion will be almost completely unable to hear you at all. Outdoor venues are good.
2. Try and keep your catch up to a maximum of three people at a time. Any more than that and you risk the possibility of more than one conversation going on at the table at one time. This will mean that the person who has the hearing impairment will not be able to participate in either one.
3. Concerts, movies, the theatre etc. are all perfectly fine to suggest for an outing. However, comments and questions should be saved until after the show because whispering in their ear is pretty useless.
4. Most people who have a hearing impairment have a preferred ear (mine is my right). Use it. And, if possible, let the person with the hearing impairment sit with most of the group on that side too when you’re out.
5. It is okay to tap them on the shoulder. In fact, it’s highly recommended. If they’re anything like me,just coming up behind or beside them and starting a sentence will scare them half to death.
6. As mentioned above, sometimes the problem is not the volume it’s the clarity. If a room is echoey then there is too much sound and your voice is distorted, not too soft. Stop yelling.
7. Face them when you are talking, they might be able to pick up some visual cues. Having said that though don’t assume that they know sign language. I am also visually impaired so I probably wouldn’t see them anyway.
8. Be patient. If it is frustrating for you that they cannot hear/understand you. T rust me, they are frustrated too. Getting upset makes me feel stupid. And you look like a dick!
9. Excuse them if they are yelling at you. Sometimes, a hearing aid will pick up sounds that you might not notice. Sounds may seem louder to them than they do to you. They may inadvertently raise their voice above the din even if they do not have to. Throw us a bone, tell us if we’re doing this. We mean to be talking to you, not the whole room.
10. If in doubt, send a text. If you try to call me while we’re out the venue will be too loud for me to hear you on the phone. But, this can also work in reverse. Even if you ring while I am in a quiet place, if you’re somewhere noisy, all I’m going to hear is the noise.