by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
From time to time, the issue arises as to what we (people with a hearing loss) call ourselves. Many of us refer to ourselves as “hard of hearing”. One person with a hearing loss commented: “It’s a stupid expression if you ask me. Hard-of-hearing makes no sense.”
Everyone is free to have their own opinions. However, I am also free to disagree with the above opinion. You see, in MY opinion, the expression “hard of hearing” is actually quite accurate. Here’s why.
Hearing (or more accurately understanding what we hear) is hard. If all we needed was more volume, we would be “soft of hearing,” and hearing aids and assistive devices would give us the extra volume we need. Then hearing would be effortless.
However, amplification isn’t enough. We still often can’t understand what people are saying in spite of the extra amplification. This is because we have less than perfect discrimination. Thus a lot of words are “fuzzy” and sound much the same to us. It takes a lot of effort to try to make sense of what people are saying under these conditions.
For example, we have to strain to hear. We have to go though a lot of mental gymnastics in order to figure out what they might have said. We have to concentrate on the person’s face to speechread. Then our brains have to put together what our eyes see, what our ears hear, what we know about the topic and what we know about the structure of the language. No matter how you slice it, all this is hard work. So yes, in a very real sense, we truly are hard of hearing. No wonder we are wiped out at the end of the day. All this hard work exhausts us.
So I am quite happy to use the term “hard of hearing” as it accurately portrays what I go though every day of my life.