How Well Can You Hear Me?

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

Further Reading:
Hearing and Listening: Feeling is Really Listening
Self-care is not selfish

892 thoughts on “How Well Can You Hear Me?

  1. When we define our normal only through our own personal experience we would never know what it is like for others. There’s no need for sympathy but awareness and understanding are so much needed in this world of ours.

  2. Thank you Rosie for this very needed question: ” . . . are we ready to invest in ourselves and our hearing?” The thing is if we are not investing in ourselves and in our hearing that can be very self debilitating and that is really not something we should accept as our standard to be with ourselves – it would diminish what we could bring to the world.

  3. For some people it can be a genetic condition that leads to hearing loss, for others it is damage from loud noises at work or from a concert or party and of course there is age too that can then contribute to this. And then of course there are those who don’t have hearing loss as such but who have ‘selective hearing’ and choose not to hear some aspects or are ‘checked out’ and are not aware of what was said. It can take a while to pick hearing loss in a child too especially when they grow up with this and think it is normal. As a society we can be quick to judge people for their conditions, or even consider them as compromised – perhaps this is one reason why people shy away from admitting if they are having trouble hearing. The bottom line is that on some level we must be willing to admit and be open about it in order to best support ourselves and in the process, you will be able to feel who truly supports you and who does not.

  4. It’s really helpful reading this article, what it makes me realise is that because my hearing is not that good I have always felt slightly embarrassed about this and have in the past pretended that I have heard what someone has said when I have not, this has felt very awkward.

    1. Well said Rebecca, we can be quick to think there is something to be embarrassed about and then feel like we have to hide something too.

  5. For a long time I was in denial that I needed to wear glasses as I believed I did not wish to accept that I was ageing. However, I came to realise that underneath that belief was that I did not want to ask for help as to me it was a sign of failure. How self-debilitating is that?

    1. Funny that – I have had glasses for long distance vision for years since I was in my early teens, but when it came to losing some of my sight for reading a few years ago, I was very resistant to admit that this was happening – I was associating this with aging and not wanting to get another pair of glasses for yet another condition…Now I have multifocals and it is great to be able to read text without a huge struggle.

  6. To be honest, I haven’t really ever considered losing one’s hearing and never really connected to the stigma of it. To me wearing a hearing aid should be no different to wearing glasses. We don’t seem to have issues with being short sighted, so why do we create issues around hearing?

  7. Reluctance to wear hearing aids is something I have observed in my nursing work a lot and yet the need to wear glasses is often much more easily accepted. I agree Rosie it is very self-loving for us to use all the supports available if we need them to live life. Hearing aids are amazing tools, they are not perfect, but given all that people miss out on when they choose not to wear them, wearing them makes it so much more worthwhile.

  8. I took a friend in his late 70’s to a hearing aid appointment some time ago. Now this is a man who has really fought wearing his aids, saying that he doesn’t need them. But that was totally dispelled, when, as we were driving off after the appointment, with only one aid in place as the other was getting fixed, he asked what the noise was. The noise just happened to be my indicator doing what it always does, something that previously he hadn’t been hearing. Case for needing to wear hearing aids closed!!

  9. I came upon this blog by random – though nothing is every random! and it reminded me of walking past a sign today that was offering free hearing tests. I reflected on whether it was applicable for me, eye tests, yes definitely, but hearing tests? I’d say my hearing is good but there again, I probably needed to wear glasses about 5 years before I ever did. It may show up how I struggle to hear anything when there is a lot of competing noise and knowing oneself one can adjust and say when it’s difficult to hear so we don’t exclude ourselves socially.

  10. So many great points shared here Rosie for us to consider and put into play for ourselves and with others. We so absolutely are worth taking care of ourselves and supporting ourselves and others in every way to live in honor of the love, the sacredness we are in essence. As when we do, we then live with confidence and power as then it is the quality of love that is shared with the world.

  11. With great respect for the deaf and hard of hearing, in my experience many hearing problems can be a choice not to listen that then becomes a pattern, a shutting down. I know that I have done this, being able to hear fine when someone has my full attention but often only affording them 10% of it.

  12. I know someone who works with vulnerable children, from very young to teenagers, and what has shocked them is how early in their lives some of these children appear to be ‘switching off’ their hearing. It’s not surprising when you realise what they have been through in the early years of their lives and so switching off from what is going on in the world around them is the safest thing to do. But what is of concern is, will they ever switch their hearing back on again, or will they eventually end up with physical hearing issues that require hearing aids, and if they do, will they actually want to make the choice to hear clearly again?

  13. Rosie, I can really relate to what you are sharing in this article. My hearing is not 100% and sometimes I do have to ask people to repeat what they have said, if I still cannot hear then sometimes I guess what was said rather than ask again because in the past I have found it embarrassing to keep asking.

  14. Hearing issue or not, we may often find ourselves in situations in which someone talks to us but we do not really get what they are trying to tell us. In such situations, it feels a bit awkward to be honest and say I did not get what you just said. It feels like interrupting a flow, a movement. Yet, the truth is that the flow, the movement are just illusionary since we are not part of them.

    1. Interesting how the consciousness of right and wrong permeates every nook and cranny of our expression. We get awkward because we feel we are going to be judged for being wrong or stupid, however I have found that if we claim that we don’t get something very naturally and ask someone to repeat or explain they are very happy to do so. If they react or judge this then it says a lot more about them than the person who asked for some clarity.

  15. There is a certain humility that comes with being able to accept our own weaknesses and asking for support with them. In this way we build strength within ourselves rather than hiding what we perceive to be our ‘defects’ so we can pretend everything is ok simply because it feels awful to feel the harshness of another’s judgment and we compromise ourselves to avoid this.

    1. So true Liane, that acceptance of “our own weaknesses” is such a big step for many people, as in many instances we have been raised to show our ‘perfect’ face to the world, thus offering no opening for the criticism of another and the subsequent hurt. Perhaps if we were raised to know that it is actually a strength to be able to show how we are really feeling and then to ask for support, there would be a whole lot less judgement in the world, judgement which only serves to separate us, not bring us together.

      1. So well said Liane & Ingrid. The power of self-honesty is certainly a foundational step for us all to take if we are to truly willing free ourselves from the facade of lies that we otherwise imprison ourselves and condemn others with.

  16. Just the other day, my mother was telling me that she was getting her hearing aid checked and adjusted, and it was really lovely to feel how she was appreciating her choice to take good care of herself. It used to be more like ‘I am old anyway and haven’t got long to go so why bother’ but now, there is a commitment to keep offering herself a quality that she knows to be supportive for her, and that there needs to be no compromise in the way we care for our body just because it is ageing.

  17. I do recognise that feeling of not wanting to admit that in certain situations, especially in crowds of people in places with bad acoustics it is for me hard to hear what someone is telling as I do not want to be seen wearing a hearing aid.

  18. There is a reluctance in me to investigate if I possibly can benefit from using a hearing aid in the same way as I have accepted to wear glasses to support me in my loss of sight.

  19. Subjective hearing and listening when we want is a really interesting topic, so too is the need to get support for our bodies but the denial of needing that support. I do wonder though if we live life being more open to hearing and listening to all that is shared, whilst putting the feeling of what was shared above everything else then would we find our needing for hearing aids to be different? In any case how great is it when we allow ourselves the support we need and get away from any stigma that may involve.

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