Connections Personal advocacy

Playing Games & Cards with Hearing Loss

Chelle: We are a game playing family. I learned Cribbage as a kid from my parents and watched their late night games with friends. As a teenager, my friends and I had intense, late night games of UNO at my house, then later Skip-Bo. In my 20’s someone introduced me to Phase 10. In my 30’s Apples to Apples came around where my kids began to understand each other’s thinking. In my 40’s my kids introduced me to Cards Against Humanity and we bought other similar card games. A few weeks ago, I introduced my kids to Tenzi, a fast rolling dice game.

In Cribbage, I can keep count with others. (I don’t know enough people who play unfortunately.) UNO is easy to follow along without hearing. Apples to Apples has single words which is harder. The kids read the word for each other and then handed me the card to read. Cards Against Humanity works the same way. I tend to give myself away when I ask to read the other players cards at judgement time. My kids work with me well, I’m lucky. Or maybe it’s good training? 

Chelle’s grandson playing Apples to Apples.

My grandkids are learning to love games too so we are back to playing Apples to Apples. They also show me the card so I can read it.

Chelle’s grandson, daughter and son playing Tenzi.

Tenzi is another great game for the HoH and I have an edge because the noise of rolling 10 dice as fast as we can doesn’t distract me. I learned this game through Deaf friends who did not yell out “Tenzi” when all 10 dice were the same number. Instead, they pounded a fist on the table so everyone knew the round was done. With the kids, we yelled out “Tenzi”. Sometimes we yelled “Yahtzee” too. 

When things get going and a few drinks have been consumed, my kids start talking faster. I’ll stick my arm in the middle of things and say, “Wait up, what was that?” One of them will repeat what was said keeping me included. It is my responsibility to let them know when I want a repeat. 

It also gets loud. My mom and my husband will go to another room. The kids grew up with my hearing loss so I think they are loud for me, which works great in my opinion. That’s our life! And we have a lot of fun.

Michele: Cranium was always a favorite game, but it is challenging now that I can no longer hear speech (some tasks require you to hear your teammates humming a song), but we find workarounds. Charades-like games have become impossible and I usually opt out. I can still play Trivial Pursuit if the person reading the card hands me the card to read for myself.

Cribbage is played almost daily at our house. My husband (he works from home) and I play during his lunch break. Another favorite is Dominos (Mexican Train), adults and kids alike. Both games are good for strengthening your math skills.

Ayla and I are playing Karottenjagd (Carrot Hunting), a game I picked up at a library sale while living in Germany.
Aunt Peach and Ayla playing Cribbage with me.

Games with my granddaughter Ayla began early. I still keep a Go Fish deck in my purse or car. My daughter and I had a weekly meet-up for breakfast. Once my daughter left for work, Ayla and I would hang out and play games until the library opened at ten o’clock. After story time for preschoolers, we would then go to my house where she would spend a night or two. More games and cards!

My family accommodates me fairly well (some are better than others), and if I need to see something that is being read, I ask to read for myself. When playing Go Fish, Ayla knows not to ask for a certain card using one word. She says my name first, and if she forgets I remind her. Hearing numbers can be a challenge, so asking by the type of fish (the cards have fish characters on them) is better. 

I think the biggest thing any HoH person can do is to ask for what they need. If you don’t know, then ask your fellow players for help. Describe why the game is challenging for you—it’s not always obvious to them. Your family and friends learn and retain more when they’ve participated in finding solutions to include you.

Michele playing cards with her four kids.

The hardest part is not being able to follow the cross talk during play. There are times when I am content just being part of the game and accept that I’m not going to get everything that is said. Other times it feels like being left out and I choose to do something else. A lot depends on my frame of mind at the time and how well my family is doing at including me.

Julia: WE are not a game playing family. I had a memory pop up on why (yes shower memory). My mom would buy me games that were one person games. I thought it was because she was so busy with work. Nope. She hated games. I am great at Pac Man, Mario Brothers, Solitaire, all sorts computer games. 

Growing up my father’s family played a lot of Scrabble. My parents had me when they were quite young and for 13 years I was the only child on his side of the family. So I watched the adults play Scrabble and learned words that earned high scores. At times it turned into a game of War and our Webster Dictionary got a lot of use! And guess what? Despite learning how to win at Scrabble, I am still not that good.

My husband is not a game player, but any game he plays he wins. Always. I will leave that there.

I do like cards. My grandparents tried to teach me Bridge for years, but I struggled to understand. When I moved back to Utah from California my younger cousins had started playing a solitaire game called Demon at family gatherings. My grandmother loved this game so we would regularly play this with her after family dinners. Actually grandma taught me most of the card games I play now. 

When my son and his girlfriend come over we play Gin and I enjoy it. Recently I bought a who-done-it game. Catch the killer? Something along those lines. About twenty minutes in I asked “okay are we ready to play Gin?” My daughter-in-law was affirmative, my son however was hell bent on the who-done-it. BTW it was the wife who-done-it.

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Advocacy Personal advocacy

HoHs Go Shopping

Shopping while HoH (Hard of Hearing) presents some challenging communication scenarios. Our attention and eyes are focused on the task at hand and we are less aware of what is going on around us. Being spoken to when our attention is elsewhere often catches us off guard. The good news: Shopping also provides unlimited opportunities to practice at finding effective ways to navigate those tricky situations. And remember, if you avoid situations that trip you up, you’ll never get better at handling them.

Julia: The most important thing I can advocate for when shopping as the hearing partner, is to businesses…please provide training for your employees that includes best practices for helping someone with a hearing loss. Most of what they need to know is common courtesy and a few simple tools. Sensitivity training is often overlooked and this helps everyone! In other words, inclusion. Training could be as simple as:

  • Always have paper and pen
  • Simple gestures
  • Have some speech-to-text app on your cell phone or ask the customer if they have one

When shopping with my grandmother we didn’t have much trouble with clerks looking at her and speaking to her. Keep in mind she never let anyone know she had hearing impairment, and in hindsight, it may not have been the right approach. When she was stumped trying to lipread, she would look at me and I would repeat changing the sentence up a little (a trick I learned for my circle of HoHs). This worked well for us, but we never had to face the MASK.

Chelle: The mask had us HoHs scrambling to learn to communicate again. Shopping today is very different than it used to be. I could lipread pre-COVID and get by most of the time. With masks, the best I can do is predict what comes up in routine situations. Gesturing seems to be the biggest help with masks. Let people know that helps. 

I also use my phone and turn on my speech-to-text app. Some hearing people want to learn more, as they encounter HoH people all the time. Because of masks, hearing loss is more visible and possibly becoming more recognized.

When it comes to checking out, I have to see the total. Numbers get mixed up with my hearing loss. I look for monitors with the total. Cashiers have been helpful in turning their monitor for me to see. Totals have been written down for me before me too. 

When shopping, I have a focus on what I’m doing which means I’m not as aware of my surroundings. Another shopper may be trying to get my attention and I won’t know it. Someone will say, “excuse me” wanting to get by and I didn’t hear it.  When it finally gets through my tunnel vision, I’ll let them know I don’t hear well. I used to say, “Sorry” but I’m trying to break that habit. We can’t help that we have a hearing loss no more than someone can help being blind. No apology should be needed.  

Part of shopping is usually going out to eat. Restaurants have terrible acoustics because cement, tile and steel are easier to clean. This is bad on hearing aids, especially with all the background noise. It’s hard on speech to text apps too. With the pandemic, sometimes there’s plastic shields between booths and that helps a little. It is a complicated environment so a few quick tips are:

  • Read the fine print and find out what’s included before the server asks questions. 
  • Give your complete order, including sides, salad dressings, etc. 
  • Eat at off peak hours to avoid all noise.
  • Choose a restaurant where you know the routine.
  • Be upfront about your hearing loss and tell them what you need from them.

Michele: Shopping taught me a lot about informing others of my hearing loss, my needs, and it is one of the ways I chose to learn to self advocate effectively.

There came a time in my 40s when I began to feel as if I was losing my independence. After a drastic hearing dip, and an entire year of unsuccessful hearing aid trials, I found myself leaning too heavily on my hearing husband and children. I hated the way it made me feel. My audiologist didn’t offer any help, other than a catalog with equipment for people with hearing loss (PWHL), so I decided it was up to me to figure out how to navigate a world I could no longer hear.

After the kids left for school one morning, I headed to an out-of-the-way shopping mall—I didn’t want to encounter anyone I knew—and went into every single store to practice telling sales people that I couldn’t hear. I tried labels (Hearing Impaired, Hard of Hearing, etc.) and found they failed to tell people what they needed to know about how I hear and what I needed for communication. I could visibly see the confusion on their faces as they tried to figure out what the labels meant. By the end of the day I had some results that I could take home with me and mull over. Better still, I became desensitized to stumbling and fumbling by the end of the day. The more I faced my discomfort, the less embarrassment and humiliation I felt at not hearing what someone said or getting tongue-tied while asking for what I needed.

By taking control and setting up the very scenarios I feared, unbeknownst to me, I was practicing exposure therapy, and it worked!

What I learned:

  • Labels don’t work well, but using them is a personal choice that is never right or wrong.
  • State your truth! Mine is: “I’m a lipreader and I need to see you speak in order to hear you.”
  • When entering a store, tell the first salesperson you see what they need to know about you: “Hi, I’m deaf and won’t hear you unless you get my attention first. You can tap me on the shoulder.” Let them know you won’t hear them through the dressing room door.
  • In the grocery store checkout, tell the person what they need to know at first eye contact. Anticipate routine questions (paper or plastic?) and instruct before being asked.
  • We all have bad days when we aren’t at our best. Cut yourself a break.
  • If someone is rude and makes a wrong assumption, let them sit within their own discomfort for a moment; it’s how they learn from the experience.
  • Don’t apologize for being HoH or deaf.

HoHoHoH, Christmas Gifts for the Hard of Hearing

Below are the links for the technology Chelle talks about in the upcoming video podcast on Monday. 

  • TV listening systems
    • Living room hearing loop, example: Oval Window Microloop III
    • FM, Infrared and Bluetooth TV listening systems are also available. You can shop online using keywords: tv listening devices. Be sure to read reviews before buying and compare prices.
  • Personal amplifiers:
  • Alerting systems, for hearing the phone ring, doorbells, smoke alarms and more. Example given: SquareGlow and be sure to look at HomeAware by Sonic Alert. I know of several people who use this system too.
  • Speech to Text app subscriptions
  • Neosensory Buzz Band uses haptics for your environmental sounds. “Feel sound on your skin. Buzz captures the sound around you and translates it into rich vibrational patterns.” Visit their website for more information. Neosensory is offering a 10% discount on the Buzz band, here is the promotional code: hearlive

Compare shops to get the best prices on devices. You can look at these hearing loss/deaf catalogs: Teltex and Diglo. You can also check Amazon or use the shopping feature on your web browser.

We hope your holiday shopping is a fun experience rather than something you dread. If you’re looking for more ways to make shopping less stressful, feel free to contact us. Happy Holidays!

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