Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Being Aware Of Others' Hearing Loss

I've had two reminders in the past week that the problems I deal with are not necessarily mine alone... it was nice to be reminded, and I thought I would share the stories.

Honk!!! Honk!!! Honk!!! :)))
From Flickr user Dennis Collette
Image is of a flock of birds in a "V" formation.

The other day I was working and was approached by an older gentleman. He seemed to be having trouble with our automatic self-checkout machine. As he spoke, he turned to the machine and finished his sentence facing it, so that I completely missed the entirety of his question. I asked him to repeat himself and please face me. He laughed, apologized, and said, "That bothers me so much, too, and I'm always asking people to face me. Sorry about that."

The other moment was just today. A man needed change for his $5 bill. I got him five ones out of the drawer and handed them over. As I sat back down again, he mumbled something like "four." I only saw four bills in his hand, so I thought I had given him the wrong change. I got up, got him another one dollar bill, and tried to hand it back, only to see he had the fifth dollar bill in his own hand and was trying to give it to me. He was actually saying "four quarters" but the second word was so muffled I couldn't hear it. He said, "Sorry! I can only hear out of one ear and I always think people can hear what I say but most of the time only I can hear what I say."

Neither of these people wore hearing aids or had any visual indicator of their hearing difficulties. I have pretty good "hearing aid (or cochlear implant)" radar - if somebody is wearing a hearing aid, chances are I will notice it, mostly because it is relevant to me and I'm aware of them. However, it made me think about the fact that I usually don't think about whether the person I'm speaking to may have some difficulty and not have any indication of it. It really highlighted to me the need to try to be clear myself. It probably was an eye opener for the two men I spoke to as well, since they both realized I had trouble hearing them.

Over the course of my job I have met a few people who use ASL or other forms of signing. I always like to meet these folks and try to talk to them a bit. I don't know anyone else who signs, so it helps me a lot. One of these people was extremely brusque and rude, even mean, rolling his eyes constantly and acting as though I didn't know what I was doing. This was years ago but I always wonder how he would have reacted if he knew I was pretty much in the same boat, just with hearing aids. I don't know if it would have changed anything.

What do you readers think? Do you often notice when other people are having difficulty hearing or do you rely on your "hearing aid radar" like I do? To me, moments like those above are nice reminders I am not alone and a lot of people can sympathize and even find humor in sometimes difficult situations.


  1. I like this post a lot, Megan. It reminded me a bit of one I wrote called I'll be the eyes, you be the ears about becoming more sensitive to other people's challenges.

    I can't quite claim to have "hearing aid radar" but I have caught myself keeping an eye out for hearing aids. I generally only see them on older men, though.

  2. I tend to be particularly receptive to facial expressions, and the absent stare (even if only slight) is a dead give-away. I don't specifically look out for HA's but occasionally I'll see old people with them.

    I've had my fair share of hearing mishaps though.

  3. I notice quite a bit, but may or may not comment. However, as a kid, I was often the one drafted to tell older relatives was time for them to get a hearing aid. They'd not listen to their brothers/sisters/children, but could hardly tell a 10 year old HA wearer that they didn't want to wear HA.

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