by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
We hard of hearing people have to put out a lot of energy in order to catch what those around us are saying. This means we may come home from work exhausted—totally wiped out.
As one lady explained, “Sometimes people around us acknowledge that hearing loss is stressful. But hardly anyone mentions that it’s exhausting.”
Another lady chimed in with, “You are so right about hearing loss being exhausting, but try and tell your managers at work that it takes more out of you on a daily basis than it does for a hearing person.”
The truth is, hearing coworkers and managers don’t have a clue just how much we have to struggle to hear, and thus often don’t do the simple things we need them to do in order to make our communicating with them easier.
Mary had that problem—unsympathetic managers and coworkers. Fortunately she found a rehabilitation audiologist who had the guts to do something about it. This rehabilitation audiologist went to Mary’s place of work and conducted a sensitivity training for her coworkers.
As Mary explained, “I heard that the people where I work, after they had the sensitivity training by the rehabilitation audiologist, were exhausted because of the scenarios she put them through. I mean, she really put them through their paces because they were so unempathetic and it ticked her off.
Here’s what she did. First, she played a speech recording that nobody could decipher. Then she played it again as she mouthed the words so everyone could try to speechread her.
Next she played more mumbly speech recordings while mouthing the words and everybody had to write down what they heard. If they were writing, and didn’t see her mouth moving, and couldn’t figure out what had just been said, too bad! She did this over and over and over until everybody was exhausted themselves!
After it was all over she said, ‘There’s a taste of what it’s like for Mary every minute of her life!'” They were stunned and as Mary says, “they have improved a lot in their communication with me since then!”
Since it is almost impossible to simulate a severe hearing loss, we cannot expect hearing people to understand the struggles we go through in trying to understand them. All we can do is tell them what we need them to do so we can hear them better.
However, if they don’t take our needs seriously and try to ease our communications burden, perhaps they need to go through the “school of hard knocks” themselves. It can be an effective wake-up call as Mary’s coworkers discovered.