When you first meet me you may think I am not paying attention to you, I’m rude, or a snob, but what you probably don’t realize is I have a hearing impairment. I’m not deaf, I can still hear, just not as much as everyone else. Most people have an idea of what a “hard of hearing or deaf” person would be like, strange speech, use of sign language ect. In my case, I speak just like everyone else but very softly. I do not sign, but I do read lips. This may come as a shock to you, guess what it was a huge shock to me!
I’ll never forget the day I walked into my mom’s bedroom (sorry mom, I’m sure I was suppose to be in there) and saw the letter from school sitting on her dresser. It had my name on it, so of course as a teenager I was nosy and wanted to see what it was. I was not prepared for what I read. You know those silly hearing tests the have you take in school, the ones with the beeps and you raise your hand as you hear them…I FAILED THAT TEST! Holy WHAT?!? My parents were going through a divorce and the next thing I remember is my father taking me to our family doctor who assured us that I had an ear wax build up issue. I was horrified! So my father put me through some of the most painful treatments imaginable putting things in my ears holding me down to try to get this “wax” out. As an adult I tried ear candling…by the way don’t waste your money that doesn’t work on anyone, though it is somewhat relaxing, so I guess that is a benefit. For me I didn’t think much else about it other than the haunting fact that I thought I had some weird wax issue.
That all changed in 2005 when I went to work for a major cell phone manufacturer. I was in a training position and it was my job to train all those people who sell you your next newest and greatest cell phone on our products. This also meant I had to do trainings in front of large groups. Now I must say I absolutely loathe the manager that I had at this job, however the only good that came from his constant belittling and ridicule was that I was so stubborn I decided to prove him wrong. He went on about how quite I was and how I HAD to start carrying my voice more. (Hello Mr. Jerk of the universe that’s why they have mics!) So I made an appointment with one of those places for a free hearing test.
I strolled in their office confidently telling the audiologist that I was just here to prove everyone wrong and it was nothing more than an ear wax problem. Well the joke was on me! He suggested that we go into this little room where they have a camera they can put in your ear to look for just that, so he did. Guess what he found? One teeny, tiny little piece of wax, which he removed for the sake of argument. Now that my ears were 100% clear of any wax I was put into this sound proof room. They then put headphones on you and have a mic for you to speak into. They first do the series of beeps and then follow with words that you are to repeat. I remember dreading those stupid beeps, because I never knew if I was hearing enough of them. Then the words came…I thought to myself how ridiculous is this, and how slow is this guy going to read to me anyway? Oh I should mention I can’t see him either. That will come into play later.
So the test is over and the audiologist walks me out of the little booth. He looks straight at me and with life changing words says. “Honey, you read lips!” I said, “What? No, I don’t!” To which he then explains to me that I my hearing is at a point that the only way I can “hear” is to read lips. I am completely confused, since I assumed this must be something they teach deaf people how to do, and obviously since I am not deaf I have not been taught. He suggested that I go home and watch TV. Ok weird I know right?!? Watch TV and pay very close attention to everyone’s mouths as you watch. Then watch and do not look at their lips.
I go home and tell my husband the news. I then decide to try this little experiment out. HOLY WHAT?!? YUP that’s right, you guessed it! I DO in fact read lips. What a HUGE difference that makes. That must explain my obsession with people’s teeth. I have a pretty good memory of people’s faces, just don’t ask me to recall what they were wearing, because I’m too busy looking at their lips and eyes to understand what they are saying to me. (that’s a vivid memory of a guy I met in high school, could describe his face to a T, such a cute guy, but had no clue what he was wearing that night) The phrase I still say often that makes me giggle every time I say it. When the kids come into say something to me in the morning and I have to say, “Wait where are my glasses I can’t hear you!” Oh yeah laugh at the half blind, half deaf girl! It’s ok, really laugh, I do!
Within a year of this discovery I was able to get my first pair of hearing aids. What an adventure that was. Think about all the sounds you hear every day. Did you know the refrigerator makes a noise, that they play music over the speakers at the grocery store, and that the air conditioner is extremely loud at the mall? I must have asked my husband and kids a dozen times a day, “what is that noise?” which is a really hard question for a hearing person to answer. They have to actually think about what you may be hearing that they just block out or take for granted being able to hear.
Unfortunately I no longer have hearing aids, but am hopeful we can get them again someday soon. I’m sick of asking people what? Or having to explain to people that I have a hearing loss and not to assume I’m rude. The TV has to be at an annoyingly high level for me to hear it, so I avoid watching shows with people who can hear, so I don’t annoy them. We just finished a movie and I’m pretty sure I only heard 25% of the dialog for the movie. Wish they’d tell you in the reviews “this movie not suitable for the deaf or hard of hearing.” If they don’t film them speaking I have no clue what’s happening. Social situations are incredibly uncomfortable with new people or those who don’t care enough to adjust their communication. Drive thru’s can be nearly impossible, thank goodness for those little screens to tell you what you’ve ordered. And if you ever play volleyball with me, just know I will NEVER know what the score is, so someone might as well look at me and tell me before I ask. As I sit here proof reading this, I hear my husband say to my son, “Get some ketchup.” However that is not at all what he said, he said, “Take the trash out.”
So I suppose it’s a real pain in the butt not being able to hear and for those around me to have to deal with, but if nothing else I live a very comical life trying to figure out what it is I am hearing!