Categories
Communication Practices Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Personal advocacy

Tour of the Coffee Shop

Via the Hard of Hearing Person’s Perspective

By Chelle Wyatt

Good afternoon and welcome to a session of Hearing Loss LIVE!’s Tour Guide to the Hearing World. Join us as we travel through the land of the hearing, where English sounds like a foriegn language and people don’t look at you while talking. Also, there are also those curious people who mumble and others who talk 100 mph. Together, we will journey through the land of masks, dodge communication disasters and create more awareness. Pull up a seat and enjoy our tour through the land of the Hearies, who don’t always speak our language. 

My name is Chelle and I’ll be your tour guide. This tour is not only intended for our Hard of Hearing community, but our hearing friends too. Everyone can join us!

Chelle, short spikey brown hair with long bangs, pastel colored dress and denim vest with an empty coffee cup in hand. Her other arm is raised, holding a wand that is pointing down to the cup.
Got coffee?

Today’s guided tour is the coffee shop.

Once again, we are visiting another tricky environment for those with hearing loss. (It’s not always easy for hearing people during busy times either.)  Coffee shops are built for the eye and fast, easy cleaning. They are not built for the ears. The harsh surfaces create a lot of reverberation – tiny echoes of sound that bounce around. Hearing devices beware! Before going in, change your device’s program to noisy settings. It will help. Now here we go…..

The noise greets us as fast as the smell of coffee. There’s music and my HoH ears want to name that tune as the Road To Nowhere by Talking Heads. What do you think? You’re right, that’s too old timey. It’s probably something more up to date. However, in my head I’m already singing the lyrics to Road to Nowhere and I’m sticking with it.

The next noise to say hello to my hearing aids are chairs sliding – more like grinding – across the floor. Ugh! It’s a horrible sound, don’t you agree? You do agree!  Oh look! There’s our hearing friend Julia in agreement too. 

Julia excited to be with us today.

Other noise includes blenders, ice clunking in metal containers. The oven. Drive-thru speaker. There is a few others near the front talking above the noise level which adds to the noise. Right now it isn’t busy and that’s what most of us with hearing loss do; go at off peak hours to avoid the extra noise.

Have you decided what kind of coffee you want? Yes?

Let’s get caffeinated!

“How can I help you,” the cashier asks.

“First, you need to know I use lipreading so I need to see you to hear you.” I tend to use the sign for lipreading when I say that. It helps reinforce my need for the visual. Occasionally, this backfires if they know enough sign language to outdo me. (I know enough to get by but that’s about it.) I run into more baristas who know sign language than anywhere else I go.

Gestures!

She nodded. Oh good! No extra words, she gets it. Gestures mean so much to us. Don’t you love it when people point to things instead of talking in these settings? This is not always the case. There are the talkers. If that happens, ask them to keep it simple and/or add gestures. 

“Large caramel frappuccino please.” (Always give your full order so there’s less questions.) 

“Anything else,” she asks. I anticipate that question, it’s easy to decipher even though I basically hear “Any el” because of my profound, high frequency hearing loss.

I shake my head. (This keeps up the language of gestures.)

Then miracle upon miracle! She truly gets it. She didn’t ask for my name. Almost always they ask for my name and I have to explain at least twice that I can’t hear my name. I’m deaf in noise. It takes a little bit for that to sink with most hearies but this girl’s got it! Aren’t we lucky today? Step right up and place your order. 

Orders all done? Okay, let’s huddle up while we wait for our coffee. 

When you get the difficult hearing people here’s what you do. Tell them two or three times you won’t hear your name. For some reason, it takes a little bit for that to kick in. Let them know they need to get your attention visually instead. A little wave will work or raise the cup and nod in our direction. The cashier sometimes forgets to pass this information to the barista so it’s not always dependable, unfortunately. 

Picking Up the Coffee

Speaking of which, I think this may be my order. The barista yelled out something while turning away. We know it’s not my name but I bet he yelled out my order. Let me go check. 

Stopping the tall barista, I let him know I’m basically deaf. He turns back around to look at me.  “Is this a caramel frappuccino,” I ask. He nods and I use the sign for thank you.

Did you see that  spark of understanding in his eyes?  Knowing a few signs can go a long way. Now I’ll add a little extra instruction.

“The next 5 people are also hard of hearing. It helps if you look straight at us when calling out the order.”  He nods. Pass that information along! Let’s help each other out as much as possible. 

When you get your coffee, let’s regroup at that large table near the back corner where we can sit in a circular fashion. That’s important in groups, it helps us all to lipread.

What’s that? Yes, we all lipread to some degree, trust me.  When everyone has their coffee, join me there and I’ll give you a few more workarounds in the coffee shop. 

(Side note: If the weather is nice and they have a patio area, sit outside. It should be easier to hear. Today is a little warm.)

Communication Repsonsibility

Now that everyone is here, let me give you a couple of rules. Since this is a noisy environment, it’s up to you to stop me, or anyone else, if you can’t hear what was said. I’m giving you the responsibility to ask for a repeat. When you’re with me, it’s always a safe place to ask for repeats. Second, one person talks at a time. This gives everyone a fair chance to hear and be understood.

Let me share a few more tips on leaving a name…

  • A lot of us have nicknames. In noisy environments, Chelle can sound the same as Sherry, Terry, Carrie and Mary. When I can’t depend on lipreading, I give my name as Michelle. I have a better chance at hearing that than I do Chelle.
  • Ask them to put “deaf” in place of the name. However, sometimes they still call out “Deaf!” Go ahead, roll your eyes. It happens.
  • Have some fun! Pick a fun name of your choice; Darth Vader, Superman, Wonder Woman, Scarlett O’Hara. When they call out the name, you’ll see people laughing and that’s your cue! Waltz up to get your coffee! 

When it’s so busy I can’t hear, here’s something else I do. I stand at the coffee pickup area and read all the labels on the coffee when it’s close to my turn. I get funny looks from people coming up to claim their coffee but oh well. If I’m too passive my coffee gets cold. I tell them I can’t hear and I’m looking for my name.

If I went to the coffee shop more often, I’d use that mobile order app. Looking at names on those cups isn’t taboo.  

Any questions for your tour guide? Be sure to share your coffee stories and tips with me in the comments below. We all learn from each other!

Remember this, it is a hard environment for hearing people too. They wouldn’t get names so wrong otherwise! In this article, baristas talk about how hard it is to hear there. They also note that hearing customers do not talk clearly and get impatience when too when they have to repeat.

LIVE! Coffee Tour

Hearing Loss LIVE! will be doing live coffee tours. You can catch us in Cheyenne, Omaha and Kansas City as we travel to the SayWhatClub Convention in Nashville. On the way back, we’ll stop at Little Rock, Oklahoma City and Albuquerque. If you are in, or near, one of these cities let us know and we’ll stop for coffee. We love meeting others from our tribe. Contact us through our website.

You can share your hearing loss coffee stories with us in person.

Categories
Communication Practices Hearing Loss Personal advocacy

Tour of the Grocery Store

Via the Hard of Hearing Person’s Perspective

By Chelle Wyatt

Good afternoon and welcome to a session of Hearing Loss LIVE!’s Tour Guide to the Hearing World. Join us as we travel through the land of the hearing, where English sounds like a foriegn language and people don’t look at you while talking. There are also those curious people who mumble and others who talk 100 mph. Together, we will journey through the land of masks, dodge communication disasters and create more awareness together. Pull up a seat and enjoy our tour through the land of the Hearies, who don’t always speak our language.

My name is Chelle and I’ll be your tour guide. This tour is intended for our Hard of Hearing community but our hearing friends will learn things too. Everyone can join us!

Image: Woman with short brown hair and cat eye glasses on. She's holding a blanck and white wand with pink and black ribbons, the end is a fuzzy pink feather. She's wearing a sweatshirt and holding the wand to her shoulder, eyes wide and smiling.

Today’s guided tour is the grocery store. Gather round and stay close, this environment is deceiving. It looks friendly and inviting at first glance but it’s not that friendly for some. Grocery stores are noisy places for hearing aid and CI users.

Step back and take a look. It’s one big, gigantic room. It’s all the hard surfaces: stone or tiled floors, high ceilings and rows of metal shelves. Sound bounces around with reverberation that drives hearing devices crazy! Are you wincing yet? I am.

Note the music, do you hear that? Elton John is on the PA system singing Rocketman. Can you hear checkstands beeping as several clerks run items across the scanner? Why does that sound rule hearing aids? On top of that there’s the couple just down the way arguing over what’s better, Gritty Kitty Litter or Tidy Cats.

It’s Noisy!

Those of you with hearing devices, you can go ahead turn the volume down to low now. While on tour, we don’t want you clenching your teeth. Mute, or turn down, your device if you’re comfotable doing so.

(We have noticed the noise there doesn’t affect our hearing friends much, but for those who do, we feel you! You can’t turn down your hearing like we can.)

The long aisles remind me of the Big Wheel scene in The Shining. We peer down the aisle and oh my god! There’s a familiar body or two way down there and they have waved at you. Can you see their faces well enough to lipread? No? At that point, the aisle length doubles in size.

Image: Looking down a long grocery store aisle toward front doors. It's the pet aisle.
Use your imagination, insert someone you know at the end. You know who they are

Your heart rate just picked up speed, right?  You know they want to start talking from way, way, way down there.

Here we have several options…

  • Look  down real quick to study that bucket of kitty litter and pretend you don’t see them because you just know you aren’t going to hear from that far away?
  • Turn around and go down another aisle?
  • Put on that polite smile and nod. Let them talk at you from miles away pretending you heard them.
  • Have a panic attack, leave your cart and leave the store.
  • Other

Here’s a little tale from yours truly, your fabulous tour guide of the day…

Many years ago, I lived in a small town with one grocery store. I couldn’t get down 3 aisles without seeing someone who wanted to chat, from way down there. This was before I was honest about my hearing loss. I chose the first option from above.  Avoiding eye contact, I’d study the shelves and hoped because I looked away they wouldn’t start talking. It gave me the title aloof, a nicer way of saying stuck up.

One day I saw a fun lady at the grocery store, a long way down the aisle, talking at me, but not really to me yet. I decided to be honest with her and I saw things click in her mind. Telling her I had a hearing loss turned out to be no big deal! After that, I made my own option. I held up my hand telling the other person to wait until we were closer.

Let’s move out of the pet aisle, avoiding the laundry soap aisle. It makes my nose itch. The coffee aisle smells so much better. Nothing is wrong with our nose! Caffeine makes the world go round.

Special Events

Speaking of specials, Hearing Loss LIVE! offers a free monthly chat on the first Tuesdays of each month. It’s an open chat, people can bring up their thoughts, woes and rants about hearing loss. Even our hearing friends are welcome, we want them to understand why we do the things we do. Our video podcasts with captions are a good way for people to learn too!

Checking Out

Have you picked up all you needed at the store? Here comes the last hurdle, the checkout stand.  Do you have few enough items for the self checkout?

Image: front of the grocery store, looking past gift cards to a few checkout lanes.
Self checkout area

This is the checkout that offers the least amount of hearing. Do you ever understand those talking machines though? I sure don’t. Turn off the volume or ignore it totally. Annoying things.  I do feel a tad bit of guilt going through as it supposedly takes away jobs but it’s oh so nice not to hear and answer questions.

Or do you have too many items and need to go through the regular checkout? Drats.

Standing a checkoutline. Woman looking back in black shorts, gray shirt, blue mask on, shoulder length dark blond air.

Using the “Script”

The cashier is wearing a mask too, but I got this! Follow me. I use a little anticipation because they ask the same things, right? 

  • “Did you find everything okay?
  • “Paper or plastic?” 
  • And sometimes, “Stamps or ice?”

I sometimes get away with following this ‘script’ because it gets old constantly identifying ourselves and Hard of Hearing…which is why we use self checkout when we can.

Other times the checker gets friendly and starts talking. That’s when I say, “I hear enough to know you are talking but unless I’m looking at you, I won’t understand anything because I use lipreading.” Try it sometime! Or find something similar you like saying, it works like a charm most of the time. I’ve learned being proactive with my hearing loss makes checkout a smoother process.

If they are wearing a mask, I let them know the same thing. Sometimes they take their mask down, other times they start using gestures. If they don’t use gestures, suggest it.

There’s a cashier over there who I absolutely avoid at all costs. (Cost, checkout line, get it?) Though he means well, when he finds out I have a hearing loss he starts finger spelling EVERYTHING, he doesn’t know sign language. I never tell him I use sign language, he just assumes. While I do know a small amount of sign language, reading fingerspelling is a huge challenge for me. It’s a horror to be honest. That’s why I go to anyone else.

This concludes today’s tour. Visit our YouTube channel for more information on hearing loss. Take a weekly peek at our upcoming events to find out what LIVE! event is coming next. It was a pleasure being your guide today, feel free to ask me any questions or share any story.

Coffee helps make the world go around!

Did you like our current tour? You can buy us a cup of coffee! Or use the QR link below.

Speaking of coffee, our next virtual tour will be the coffee shop, that’s a crazy noisy environment to maneuver in!  Even our hearie friends have trouble here. After our virtual tour, you can meet us in person as I travel with Julia to the SayWhatClub convention in Nashville.

Stay tuned for more info soon!

There is no campanion podcast to this blog.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.