by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady wrote:
I am not assertive when it comes to being with people. This is partly my nature and partly because my older sister was hard of hearing long before I lost my hearing. She is never concerned how often we have to repeat for her. It is very annoying with her, and I certainly do not want to be like that. I think I’m backing off to much though and staying away from people to much. I’m afraid to greet people in the Mall because more than likely they’ll say something and I’ll not understand, ask to repeat and eventually when I finally get it, all they said was, “Well, it’s starting to warm up outside today.
The problem isn’t that you have to repeat and repeat ad nauseam—the problem is that people aren’t doing the right thing in the first place. If people practice the proper coping skills the first time—then hard of hearing people should get it the first time or at the very least, the second time. Doing the wrong thing over and over again doesn’t help!
The lady continues:
I’m not sure how to handle my situation. I don’t think people know how I struggle with hearing. I have shared my hearing loss with one or two people and it makes them very uncomfortable. Why, I’m not sure, but probably because they don’t know what to say. Then I decide not to do that again.
You are not going about this the right way. If you explain your hearing loss and how hard it is for you to hear—people tend to shy away from you. You’ve already warned them it is going to be a problem talking with you, so they “take off” as soon as they can.
You need to put people at ease first. A good way to do this is to mention you have a hearing loss, and in the same breath assure them that you can still have a nice chat—”all I need you to do is ……” (and name the one or two things that will make the most difference in that particular situation). These could be as simple as face me when you talk, or speak up a tad, or let’s move to that quiet corner, etc. Now people know what will make it a success. Thus, they are much more willing to talk with you.
If you want to learn to cope better, I’d suggest reading two easy-to-read and understand books. The first one is “Talking with Hard of Hearing People—Here’s How to Do It Right!” It explains a number of freebie coping strategies that you can use any time or any place to help you hear better. I have used these strategies all my life because they work.
The second book, “Help, I’m Losing My Hearing—What Do I Do Now?” gives you a good overview of the whole hearing loss thing, and then gives you lots of good information on coping strategies.