Hearing loss is hard. It’s hard in ways that people without hearing loss sometimes don’t even understand.
It’s socially isolating.
It’s emotionally draining.
It’s mentally taxing.
It’s physically exhausting.
And it’s invisible.
There is a correct assumption that hearing loss is easier if a person will just ‘speak-up’.
What is misunderstood about this assumption is who needs to be speaking up. It’s not those around someone with hearing loss, the loudest voice should be the person with hearing loss!
Self-advocacy, finding your own voice and using it, can be just as helpful in improving hearing health as a good set of hearing aids. Even the most aware and empathetic friends can forget that you might be having trouble communicating. It’s not because they don’t care, it’s often because they can’t see you’re hearing loss and because they’re human, each with their own concerns and worries to keep their minds busy. It’s up to you in those instances to be the one that remembers to speak up.
But self-advocacy is also hard. Many with hearing loss get accustomed to living in the shadows, missing out on jokes, not recognizing a song or feeling like a bother by asking “what?” yet another time.
Here’s the good news…it’s worth it.
Here’s the better news…you’re worth it.
The holidays present unique challenges because we’re often put out of our usual routine. It can mean being surrounded by new people while sitting in a new environment and talking about new things. A perfect storm for hearing loss anxiety and a tempting time to get out one’s phone and retreat back to the shadows. Here are a few tips:
- Technology is your friend. Free voice recognition apps like Otter (there are many others) have come a long way in their accuracy and ability to work in a larger room. These can also pair well with phone calls or free video calling apps like Zoom. You can even use your phone to Google “How to turn on captioning on my tv”.
- Control your environment. Even seemingly little things can make a big difference. For example, asking to sit at the end of the table where you can see more faces doesn’t put anyone out but no one is going to think to offer that to you. Avoid groups of three…it can be like watching a tennis match without knowing the rules where your head just moves back and forth wondering what’s happening. Invite a fourth, politely uninvite the third, explain why you’ve changed your mind about going at all. Speak up!
Whether your holiday plans involve a group gathering, a small gathering or even just a phone call, being the one that speaks up rather than expecting others to do so for you can help keep you connected. It’s not easy but like most things, it gets better with practice and the holidays are a perfect time to try it out with friends and loved ones.
And much like a Jelly of the Month Club membership, self-advocacy is the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.
Matt Hay is the Director of Audiology Sales for Redux, the developer of an award-winning drying process for hearing instruments, hearables and personal electronics. Redux is a professional in-office drying system offering complete moisture removal in minutes with the push of a button while providing a real-time measure of the amount of moisture removed. Matt is a frequent speaker, author and podcaster on the subject of hearing loss and overcoming challenges. Matt’s personal story of studying music leading up to his eventual deafness has been featured on NPR and optioned by Channing Tatum for Paramount Pictures.