Editor: How do you react when communications challenges present themselves? Do you get angry? Do you try to educate? Does it depend on the situation? Kelli Deister, Deafness Editor at Bella Online (http://www.bellaonline.com/), recommends understanding. Thanks to Kelli for her permission to share her thoughts with you.
This past week has been one of high stress, in regards to my hearing loss. Individuals that become hard of hearing in their adult years will face misunderstandings and rudeness to some extent, as they attempt to find their place in this world. I know I have said this several times in the past, but I feel as though it needs to be repeated. The man or woman that suddenly becomes deaf or hard of hearing will face some extreme frustration, as well as behavioral or verbal rudeness. For those adults, as they have found themselves with hearing loss, it can cause great frustrations.
For instance, while they were hearing, they understood the entire context of what the speaker presented. However, once the hearing individual begins to go deaf and seeks to find available resources within their community, the late deafened adult may feel as though communicating with a hearing person is impossible. You see, they spent a good portion of their daily lives interacting within the hearing world. Yet, once they lose their hearing, they are likely to feel as though they no longer fit in there. On the flip side of this issue is the fact that late deafened adults are not easily welcomed into the Deaf community, either. It’s as though they walk that fine line that separates both worlds, which leaves the late deafened adult to feel as though they are a misfit.
It can be extremely frustrating for them in several ways. While hearing, if they were sick and needed a doctor, they simply picked up the phone and verbally made the call. However, once a person has deafness, they must learn to use the TTY or relay system. These are all foreign to the hearing person.
The person that has become deaf will then try to converse with hearing people. This can be stressful for those that long to communicate with their friends and family. Sometimes, when the late deafened adult attempts to converse with people in both worlds, it can cause extreme stress. The hearing person yearns to talk with someone about their less of hearing; however, it’s very difficult. I am hard of hearing and I can attest to these truths. For example, while grocery shopping, I sometimes get hit harshly with a grocery cart. The hearing individuals then loudly excuse themselves and they roll their eyes as if they truly cannot comprehend that the person they have just slammed with the shopping cart cannot hear them. When this happens to me, I will tell them sternly, I’m hard of hearing, I didn’t hear you behind me.”
Another example is that when the late deafened adult tries to talk with one of their hearing friends and family, they feel a wide array of emotions. The person that they are trying to talk with might get impatient and have little understanding at to how it might feel to the deaf person. Imagine, if you will, a person that has recently lost their hearing and wants so much to communicate with their closest friends and family; however, when they attempt to talk with them, they are sometimes met with angry looks and rolling eyes, as the hearing person simply cannot understand why it is so difficult to hear them when they speak. The hearing person might also become impatient with having to repeat things to the deaf person,
To watch a person roll their eyes and say, “WHAT?” acts as a betrayal from those they love. Another method that a deaf person might face is when the hearing individual starts to speak sarcastically and loudly while they are responding to the deaf person. I’m asking all hearing individuals that read my articles, to please be understanding of those within your community that have a hearing loss. If you are shopping and need to pass, yet the person ahead of you obviously can’t hear you, you might want to consider gently tapping on the shoulder of the deaf person, in order to get their attention. Please do your best to refrain from being angry with the deaf person. It isn’t as though they asked to have the hearing loss. It also isn’t as though they are purposely blocking your way. They simply cannot hear you.