How common is it to have a hearing issue, and how willing are we to admit it? Often when we are in groups it can be quite challenging to hear properly, even for those that do not have any hearing issues, but for those who do, what exactly happens?
I asked a few people and discovered that this is one of those hush-hush topics that are rarely discussed; hearing problems are looked down upon. It soon became apparent that there are many ideals and beliefs associated with hearing and the loss of it, and how that loss is often associated with being old, ageing, losing the plot, the onset of dementia, and even ‘being dumb’. Excuse me, can you repeat that?
One woman shared that when she is in a group she often feels isolated and separates herself due to the fact that she can’t hear clearly and this can often leave her feeling frustrated. What shocked me was that she was more awkward about her hearing problem than the fact that she only has one breast. She felt more comfortable going around without her prosthesis in her bra than with the thought of walking around with a hearing aid in.
Another woman shared how the hearing is affected when we are lying down and therefore as a yoga teacher she has to adjust her voice to support people, and that many of her clients do actually struggle to hear but are often not willing to admit it or do anything about it, and ask for her to speak up.
Some people are hurt from the judgement, rejection or reaction that they have received when they have asked another to speak louder: either being told that they obviously didn’t want to hear what was being presented or being shouted at really slowly without the acceptance that some people actually have a physical impairment. CAN YOU HEAR ME?
And for those of us without a hearing problem as such – yet – speaking to someone that we know has a hearing issue, we can easily support them by:
- speaking clearly
- speaking a little bit louder
- making eye contact so that they can read our lips if needed, and
- to make sure we don’t speak slow and/or shout, as this can feel horrible for the person listening.
Hearing loss for many is a gradual change that happens over time, but after speaking to a doctor on the subject of hearing, I realised that for some it can just be the simple fact of ear wax build-up for example, or something else, so just visiting the doctor and having a check-up can make a huge difference.
There are some people who have tried a few hearing aids but had not had any noticeable results, let alone any great results. There has been this feeling to just give up on the whole idea and turn a blind eye to it all – or should we say a deaf ear?
But talking to someone with a hearing problem, I soon began to realise and understand the stress that it causes them, and the frustration and misunderstandings that can occur because of it. The straining to hear can affect the whole body; the leaning forward all the time, trying to hear, or the tilting the head at an angle and the effect that this then has on our muscles. Not to mention the effect on a person’s self-worth as part of the process of being unable to participate as fully as one would like.
How many of us withdraw but don’t realise that the reason we are doing so is because we can’t actually hear properly? How many of us would think it is our introvert nature, shyness or not wanting to speak up, instead of knowing that what really is going on is that we have a hearing issue? Withdrawal can occur because we can’t participate or because we can’t hear and don’t understand, but it doesn’t need to be that way.
This led me to consider that it can actually be self-loving to make a change and invest in a hearing aid or other medical support. It’s like wearing glasses, what’s the difference? Sometimes it takes people a few years to accept that they have to wear glasses and I imagine it would be the same period of adjustment with a hearing aid.
Using aids to support our sight or hearing should not make any difference as to how we see ourselves or how we see other people because these aids do not change the essence of who we are, but they can support how we relate and interrelate with the world – and also how it can support others to relate with us.
The question comes back to: are we ready to invest in ourselves and our hearing? And are we willing to be more understanding, aware of and accepting of others with a hearing impairment – and to be more supportive when it comes to our own expression, and theirs…?
By Rosie Bason, Business Owner, Massage Therapist, Northern NSW, Australia