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

740 thoughts on “How Well Can You Hear Me?

  1. Love this blog Rosie, thank you. The ways in which we can support ourselves and each other are very simple and can make such a big difference to the quality of life for all of us.

  2. There seems to be a stigma in admitting your hearing has diminished, especially in the elderly. Our eyes diminish often when we age, and we all seem generally okay with getting glasses, but when it comes to hearing, we are not so keen. Perhaps not addressing hearing issues is an outdated perception that there is no real support, and its time to consider that there are now many options to support hearing loss.

  3. May be it is an idea that we do also an ear check once in ten years as many are not even aware that they hear less and they just talk so loud that people avoid talking to them.

  4. This is a great topic of conversation and it reminded me of someone I knew and they had a hearing problem but at first refused to wear a hearing aid and because of this they withdrew into themselves because they couldn’t hear what was going on and therefore could not join in the conversation. And as you have said when they did eventually succumb to wearing one they felt embarrassed it was uncomfortable to wear and there was a whistling sound emanating from it from time to time which other people found distracting. So the compromise was that he would only wear it in the company of a group of people. When he was at home with his wife he wouldn’t wear it which led to his wife feeling lonely because she could no longer have a conversation with her husband so they withdrew from each other, it was quite a sad way to end their lives.

    1. Great point Annelies. The temptation to shout when with people we know are deaf, or who are old and might be, is strong but not necessarily what is needed. It is the connection with ourselves, clarity in our being and holding of the other in love that really counts and allows for greater communication.

  5. Losing one’s hearing is not something you hear spoken about often, unlike the common complaints around loss of sight. The latter is accepted as a normal part of ageing, whereas losing one’s hearing is not it would seem, being considered more of a ‘disability’.

  6. It’s lovely to read an article such as this from someone who doesn’t even have a hearing problem (yet, as you rightly say Rosie). There is a tenderness apparent here that springs from a willingness to connect to people and understand an issue without judgement and with a deep regard. Very beautiful.

  7. I love this Rosie because it brings it back to connection and how every single person we connect with we can truly begin to understand and gain great insight into our intimacy levels with others and how we all can support each other to express equally and exquisitely by the connection we hold. Awesome thank you.

  8. I have contact with many people with various disabilities or limitations in function, and often they are discriminated against even by those who would classify themselves as ‘good people’ trying to do the ‘right thing’…but it is only love that allows us to truly support each other.

  9. Loved this blog Rosie, I know so many people who have issues over their hearing and rather than ask another to repeat what was said they guess what you were saying and it ends up with two conversations going on. It is important that we take responsibility for our ability to hear and get assistance when we need too, that way we don’t miss out on what is being communicated, or miss understand what is being said, and we can equally support another to get help too.

  10. I am of the understanding that the problem of not hearing lies with the person who is doing the communicating; ie if someone is not hearing/listening then we need to communicate in a way that does engage and connect. So much to ponder in this blog Rosie, thank you.

  11. It is true people do not want to own up to having a hearing problem, and over the years I have met many people who have put off getting glasses until the very last minute. So what is it that gets in the way of us seeking help or even admitting that we are having difficulty – do we see it as being less? Or is it an indication that we are getting older and do not want to admit that things are not working like they used to? Or not accepting getting older?

  12. I have met some elderly with hearing problems and it seems that most of them don’t like asking others to speak loud and clear but instead withdraw from talking and socialising as they feel excluded from the goings-on around them. I know my impatience and it aches to feel and admit the lack of understanding and compassion from my end that would allow them to be who they are without fearing being judged.

  13. When we have made past choices, part of the learning for us is to feel the effect this has not only on us but on others also.

  14. Its great to re-read this Rosie. I’d forgotten that I was inspired to have my hearing checked. Being one step ahead may just support me in the future to not feel left behind or have a situation deteriorate that may have been much simpler to attend to early.

      1. Absolutely – teeth are a great example, super simple to care for if we choose and attend to what is needed along the way. We all might have had an experience when letting it go blew out to something much bigger.

  15. I love that you draw our attention to this topic that affects so many, if not all of us, in one way or the other. One of many daily situations that are so common but where we have learned to deal with on our own and to not speak up. You show us that it is ok to care for ourselves and deeply so, and for each other.

  16. I often notice that when people begin to be affected by hearing loss they will deny it, but instead say that you are speaking too softly or that the television is too low. Very rarely will they say – I think I have a hearing problem – admitting that usually takes a while, but in the meantime, they are, as you say, putting a lot of strain on their body as they try to hear. So much easier to be honest and simply admit that they can’t hear which makes the next step a whole easier.

  17. Isn’t this just another example of how we reject ageing? Instead of these supportive procedures such as hearing aids and glasses being seen as the support that can be necessary with the wear and tear of age on our amazing bodies. Rather we reject ageing and try to hold onto youth in all ways possible.

  18. I am about to start work as a carer and reading this feels very supportive. The ending questions call for a deeper level of care and understanding towards ourselves and others. I used to feel very awkward with certain accents, today I still don’t fully understand some people but by not giving myself a hard time for not perfectly understanding all accents, I feel more relaxed when asking someone to repeat themselves.

  19. The likes of prescription glasses, hearing aids or even walking aids such as a stick or crutches simply support us to correct a deficit we have in our body and maintain our independence. It makes me wonder why we balk at getting support when we need it.

  20. Sometimes I can find it difficult to hear others when there are a lot of people talking in the same room. I find myself adjusting my body to be able to hear but I do ponder and question whether the movements I am making support my body or whether I am to speak up and ask if they could speak up.

  21. For someone diagnosed a few years ago with a hearing ” problem” (should we change this word?) I truly appreciate the time you put into researching this disability. I can relate to so many of the issues others have too and especially our embarrassment admitting that we wear a hearing aid! I have had people speak loudly at me rather than to me and being short with me if they are asked to repeat something. I realise it is hard to be patient always but is so important for the relationship to be understanding!

  22. It is interesting the way many of us see getting support for hearing loss or eyesight, some have said they feel like they are handicapped by needing a hearing aid and that in someway they are then less of a person because of it. So if we believe that, then that is how we approach our conversations, work, relationships and view life. No wonder it is a big hurdle for some to get over. I know that my eyesight has changed over the last year or two but because I prided myself on my ‘normal’ 20/20 vision it took a while to admit I needed glasses. I now look forward to going and getting my eyes tested and finding the perfect pair of glasses that will support me.

  23. People love being truly heard. When someone is heard there is a trust that naturally opens us up to a deeper and more intimate connection.

  24. Why do we withdraw from a conversation? The hearing issue may be the trigger, but there must be much more behind. This makes me reflect about the way I sometimes isolate myself from a chat with people… maybe because I’m not received for who I am, maybe because I had expectations that are not acomplished, maybe because it’s more comfortable to be in a second place position, holding back, not wanting to hear what I’m hearing, some kind of protection, … I don’t have hearing issues, but in those moments I don’t hear what surrounds me. Maybe there is also a choice of not hearing that triggers in long term the issue? I don’t know, but just the possibility makes me feel more responsible and active in my interactions.

  25. Even people who do not have any hearing loss can sometimes not hear what is being said and in this way we have to look at why this is so. There can be many reasons for this and we would be wise to include energetic reasons as well.

  26. I used to think it was someone else’s responsibility to be able to hear me, now I realise it’s my responsibility to speak in a way that someone else can hear me, the same as it’s my responsibility to speak in way that never harms another person, or puts someone down or interferes with someone’s evolution.

  27. We all have a responsibility to make sure we can hear and be heard. A lot of things can be mis-understood and confusion arises if we get half a story or make assumptions because we have not heard correctly.

  28. What I have been noticing lately is how people seem to treat people who are deaf as stupid. This is a gross injustice and totally irresponsible.

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