Categories
Communication Practices Emotions, Psychological Stress Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Mental Health & Hearing Loss Personal advocacy

Hearing Loss and Collateral Damage

With Gloria Pelletier, LCSW, LISAC

Hearing Loss LIVE! teams up with Gloria Pelletier to take another look at the mental health side of hearing loss.

Collateral Damage Definition: Injury inflicted on something other than an intended target.

How does collateral damage apply to hearing loss? 

Hearing loss hurts us in unknown ways. It also unintentionally affects the hearing people in our lives. This is especially so when we are not upfront about our hearing loss. 

A smiling white lady with long silvery hair.
Gloria Pelletier

Gloria: “Collateral Damage” is a term I first heard in The Veterans Administration when I worked there as a social worker.  Our Veterans are trained NOT to have collateral damage. Not to kill those other than the intended target. 

How does it apply to hearing loss?

Chelle and I were talking about how often those around us do NOT modify their behavior to help us hear.  I got a real eye opener when I spoke to Chelle with my back turned to her, then later she spoke to me with her back to me.  We were laughing because here are two educated individuals on hearing loss doing EXACTLY what we tell our family NOT to do. Since neither one of us lives with another person with hearing loss we are used to speaking to hearing people, making the same mistakes they make.  

Loss of Casual Conversation

It seems so simple to ask for our family and friends to accommodate our hearing loss. It didn’t make sense to me why they did not or refused to. After my afternoon with Chelle making the same mistakes it became apparent to me that modifying one’s behavior takes thought, focus and perseverance. Too many times we think communication is easy and we don’t need help in learning to communicate. We have been speaking since infancy!  

Speaking and communicating are two vastly different concepts. In order for me to communicate with you, for us to have a two way conversation; I am going to need some modifications.  When I am not honest about those needs I essentially make sure you cannot effectively communicate with me. This is collateral damage.  

Bluffing does no one any good.

Our hearing partners have no concept of our needs so they continue on speaking to us as if they are having a casual conversation.  When I nod my head as though I understand. I have denied my communication partner true access to me. (This is collateral damage.)  I have made an unilateral decision NOT to communicate in a clear and understandable way.  

I did not ask the other person if they were OK with that, I decided my personal issue was more important than their ability to communicate with me. By being very clear and upfront with our conversation needs, we are truly communicating with someone and being respectful of their right to communicate with me. I have given them the tools to be successful. The environment may need to be modified but we BOTH agree on how that is done.

Another example of collateral damage: I watched a man dominate a group of people with his hearing loss. He complained he couldn’t hear, that he needed a one to one conversation.  He insisted the whole group accommodate his hearing loss. That in of itself is not a problem. 

What was the problem? 

He did not give the group information on how to communicate with him so he could successfully integrate into the group.  His own frustration with communication and lack of knowledge about his own needs created a strained group dynamic. (This is collateral damage.)  I watched the whole thing unfold, an unwilling participant to this dynamic.  He was angry, frustrated and demanding that others communicate with him without consideration for their ignorance on how to do that.  (More collateral damage.)   

When HOH folks are more proactive, a clear statement of accommodations alivates all the stress in the group. We then can have good communication and relationships with others on terms we can function in.  It is OUR responsibility to be proactive with our needs and to give others the information they need so communication becomes accessible. 

Hearing Loss has unintended bombs

Chelle:  When Gloria introduced this topic, she had to explain it to me. Collateral damage??? Once I understood, I could see the silent ‘bombs’ that go off beind us. Boom…Boom!!

With my first pair of hearing aids fitted and adjusted, they told me I would hear a lot better. That wasn’t the case. I don’t think they realized how noisy hair salons were. Some of the collateral damage I remember coworkers was:

  • Are your ears in?
  • Turn up your hearing aids!

I couldn’t combat these hurtful remarks. I felt ashamed because I wasn’t living up to the standard. I retreated further in my shell.

Hiding hearing loss has consequences.

Back then, I was not honest about my hearing loss, I hid it because of that shame. People would try to talk to me when I wasn’t looking and I’d walk by without acknowledging them. They didn’t know about my hearing loss so I was considered rude & a snob for several years. (Boom!)

There were also ‘friends’ who liked to have fun with my hearing loss. While out gambling in a casino (loud music, slot machine background noise) some guy was showing interest in me and I was unaware playing video poker. My hearing friends told him to ask me for something ‘unsavory’ for a little fun. I heard him talking, looked up, he asked and bluffed, nodding my head. (Boom!)  That taught me to ask for repeats no matter what.

What else changed?

After 18 years and a big hearing drop, I educated myself. Thanks to the SayWhatClub and our local HLAA chapter I learned healthier communication strategies from my fellow peers. I learned how to reply to those comments above too. My answers are:

  • Are your ears in? Yes they are. They don’t work well in noisy environments. You need to get my attention before talking for less repeats. 
  • Turn up your hearing aids! With my hearing loss, it’s not volume so much as it is clarity. Hearing aids aren’t called hearing miracles for a reason. They help but they don’t replace true hearing. Please face me while talking, that helps a lot. 
A white lady on a snow mountain side in black ski clothes. She has a pink ski hat on with goggles raised up on her head.
While skiing, collateral damage would be other people assuming I can hear them saying “To your right” or “To your left” as they ski past. That’s a fear of mine. – Chelle

Hearing Partners Experience the Loss Too

Julia: “Emotional side of hearing loss” is a catch-all phrase, and there’s a lot that goes under that umbrella. Collateral damage fits in there with grief, and other feelings.

Hearing partners experience collateral damage too. It was the day we were hurt because we knew the person bluffed. It was the day we realized we could no longer whisper sweet nothings in our partner’s ear. It was the day casual conversations in the car disappeared. It was the day we struggled communicating our message during a phone call.

During our podcast, it dawned on me that the largest piece of collateral damage that happens with hearing loss is watching our elders mishandle it. 

Anger and Impatience

Our behaviors, good and bad, are contagious…

  • As a hearing person and I am modeling anger and impatience with hearing loss, I encourage others to do the same. 
  • If I am refusing to work towards productive change, I’m encouraging the same behavior. 
  • If I show impatience waiting for you to hear/understand, because it takes you a minute to hear… 

If I do this, I show others that hearing loss is a hassle. Here is more collateral damage.

Two white ladies, one younger and the other older. The younger lady with light brown hair pulled back is smiling and focusing on the camer. The older white haired lady is smiling and more relaxed. Palm trees int he background.
Thanks to being involved with the HoH community, Julia knew how to help her gma with communication needs.

As hearing partners, we can change this pattern. Let’s start working together with communication needs to have better relationship outcomes. Let’s find healthier ways to learn from the past. Collateral damage will happen. You can’t stop it. But we can minimize the damage. We can acknowledge the harm and work together for better experiences.

Above all else, let’s continue to look under the umbrella that I call the emotional side of hearing loss. Together we can create a community. With a community, we can bring about change. With change, we can create better understanding around hearing loss.

For those with hearing loss, help us help you. Disclose your communication needs. Let your friends and family know. Let your coworkers know because a lot of collateral damage happens there too. Trust this next step in life with hearing loss so we can all do our part. 

Own Your Hearing Loss

Michele: I hate to say it, but the Hard of Hearing often create a lot of problems for themselves by not owning their hearing loss or continuing in denial.

The back of a silver haired lady sitting at a desk with two computers. It's an online meeting on one of the computers.
Michele giving a presentation on being proactive while traveling with hearing loss.

While doing research into how to get audiologists on board with empowering patients, I connected with an audiologist practicing patient-centered care who found it a hard question to answer. They went on to explain their frustrations in dealing with patients every day who are fighting the stigma of hearing loss and are hesitant to move forward with even the most discreet hearing aids. I was surprised to learn that it is pretty rare to have patients who are accepting of their hearing loss, good self advocates, and emboldened to share their struggle with their friends and family. Collateral damage cuts many ways.


When we are not proactive in dealing with our hearing loss, we set the stage for collateral damage. The best thing we can do for ourselves, our family members, friends and all others we encounter in life is to learn how to tell them exactly what they need to know about our hearing loss and our communication needs. Not everyone we tell will do their part, but when we do our part we plant the seed for all of us to do better. 

Podcasts

Watch our companion podcast on our YouTube channel with captions. You can also find us on several podcast platforms (BuzzSprout with a transcript, Spotify, iHeartRadio and more) by searching Hearing Loss Live.

Other posts/podcasts you might enjoy…

If you liked this blog post, check out our other collaboration with Gloria,  Mental Health Myths in Treating Hard of Hearing Clients. Another good one might be our Vulnerability post. Disclosing our hearing loss and communication needs can be scary but it’s how we grow.  

Join Our Twice a Month Newsletter

We have a twice a month newsletter. We add tips on being proactive with hearing loss with experiments for you to try in daily life. You can sign up for our newsletter on our events page, scroll down a bit.

Help US Grow

If you enjoy our content and find it helpful, share it on social media. Or, consider donating so that we can keep going until our services are better established. Here’s our QR code.

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
Communicating with Hospital & Medical Staff deaf Education Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Mental Health & Hearing Loss

Mental Health Myths in Treating Hard of Hearing Clients: With Gloria Pelletier

Our guest this week is Gloria Pelletier, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, who has become a great connection for us here at Hearing Loss LIVE! She brings a wealth of understanding about how hearing loss and mental health have a long way to grow together. Watch for our ongoing series with Gloria where we will unpack more misconceptions as it correlates to hearing loss and mental health diagnoses.

Change the Therapeutic Milieux
Gloria Pelletier

Gloria: With my last, large hearing drop I no longer could communicate effectively. I could speak but I couldn’t hear what others were telling me. I could still read lips, sort of, but not enough to be able to understand communication.

I decided to go to a mental health professional to learn how to deal with my drastic hearing loss. Unfortunately, what I found was that the experience of losing a sense and the resulting consequences was not well understood in the mental health community. I was given many different diagnoses in an attempt to define my experiences. None of which were accurate. I began to ask my community circle if they had experienced the same phenomena. I did a small survey of those who were doing therapy and no one made any accommodations for hearing loss or understood that there were some adaptations that could look like or were similar to other DSM ( Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) criteria.

After a quick literature search it became apparent that this was a common occurrence for Deaf individuals. I was talking to Chelle about the misperceptions in the mental health field and this is how the podcast was born. It is imperative that Hard of Hearing (HoH), deaf, late deafened, Deaf, etc., are understood within the mental health community so that we can get the appropriate treatment.

Hearing loss and the consequences of losing a sense is well understood medically. What is lacking is understanding of how that impacts the HoH emotionally. What does that look like in everyday living?

With the help of Vocational Rehabilitation we explored the technology available now which would assist me in continuing to do therapy. With technology I can communicate with the hearing, and HoH community effectively. I can still do what I love.

My goal is to increase the knowledge within the therapeutic community’s understanding of hearing loss, the consequences and how best serve those with hearing loss. To deconstruct the myths and misconceptions that create confusion for both the practitioner and the client.

I lost my hearing, I didn’t lose my abilities. I have the same abilities I had before, except hearing. There are ways to live with hearing loss that will augment my skills and understanding. Let’s work together to find those, make them known and assist others in knowing hearing loss can be an adjustment not a disease.

Julia: In our Podcast with Gloria you will hear the acronym “DSM.” This stands for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The American Psychiatric Association is a great place to learn more about DSM and its role in patient diagnosis. 

I don’t know about y’all, but as a kid “mental health” was a dirty word. Almost as dirty as the word “hearing loss.” Mental illness meant you couldn’t perform a job the way a normal person could. Hearing loss meant you couldn’t perform a job the way a hearing person could. Mental illness meant someone unstable who might say something inappropriate. Hearing loss meant someone unstable who might say something inappropriate. 

People around the country are working hard to change the stigma of mental health disabilities and therapy. Thank goodness. But the work is still in its infancy in my opinion. Hearing Loss LIVE! is working to change the stigma of hearing loss disabilities. Thank goodness. But here too the work is still in its infancy.

All patient intake forms should have a section related to hearing loss. 

  • Have you been diagnosed with hearing loss?
  • Has your hearing changed recently?

And so on.

Chelle: With hindsight and new awareness, I’m sure I had hidden hearing loss as a teenager. 

  • Though I could hear in the classroom, I couldn’t hear in the noisy hallways between classes. 
  • I hated being in the backseat of cars because I couldn’t understand what people were saying. I had to lean forward and hang my head in the front seat to hear. 
  • People couldn’t talk to me from another room without a repeat. 

Tinnitus at 18 was suggestive that I might have hearing loss but the audiologist said my hearing was within the normal range. Five years later, I was wearing hearing aids with a more obvious hearing loss.  

Chelle, mislabeled as a typical defiant teenager

Instead of suspecting hearing loss, I was a “typical teenager saying huh” all the time. Or a defiant teenager for not paying attention and mirroring anger with people who were impatient repeating. Years later, I found out while attending a high school reunion people thought I was stuck up, or antisocial.  

These days there are hearing tests for “speech in noise”. When I was a teenager, that wasn’t an option so we just didn’t know. Hearing loss is more prevalent these days. One in five teenagers experience some sort of hearing loss. In a class of 30 kids, that is 6 who may experience hearing loss. If a teacher has five classes a day, that’s 30 kids a day with a possible hearing loss.  

Gloria and I discussed this a couple of months ago. I remember the silence as we both processed this new awareness. There aren’t regular hearing screenings in schools so how long does hearing loss go undiagnosed? How many teenagers are labeled as antisocial? Defiant? Maybe even ADD for not paying attention. Are we checking their hearing?

Michele: I recently stumbled onto the empowEAR Audiology Podcast hosted by Carrie Spangler, Au.D, CCC-A, who has hearing loss herself—she was implanted with a cochlear implant in November of 2019. NOTE: Transcripts are available, however, the ASR (automatic speech recognition) captioning isn’t corrected. You know I’m going to contact them about that.

In episode #40, Dr. Spangler’s guest is Matt Hay, a 45 year old man who began losing his hearing his sophomore year of college. He was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, type 2 (NF2), and underwent an auditory brainstem implant (ABI – 12 electrodes connected directly to the brainstem in the area that processes sound) just after it was FDA approved in 2000. Matt woke up from the surgery with facial paralysis, he couldn’t walk, and had double vision, not to mention all the work it was going to take to learn to hear again with the ABI.

In reading the entire podcast, what struck me most was that Matt had all kinds of physical rehab and therapy, but not much on the hearing loss side that addressed the emotional and mental struggle we all go through. He talks about the things it took too long to learn—self advocacy, realizing you can question professionals, because they don’t always know best or have answers, and the fact that nobody ever came to him and said, “Hey, we have this training that can help you.”   

Matt found himself explaining his frustration to everyone, even his doctors: ”And I remember being so frustrated and saying like, you just don’t get it. You don’t understand why this is hard, why it’s exhausting, why it’s lonely, why [I] can be surrounded by this support and still feel totally on my own and alone.”

Unfortunately, doctors, therapists, and the other medical professionals who treat us, have not been trained to understand hearing loss.

During a follow-up hospital appointment with CART/Textual English Interpreting—I requested CART for the first time for a procedure I had done last week—the Nurse Practitioner was amazed at how well CART worked. She was very curious and asked a lot of questions about it. One thing I made sure to tell her is that without an effective way to communicate, people with hearing loss can exhibit behavior that is misinterpreted as mental health or cognitive issues.

Why the Hard of Hearing might be misdiagnosed or mislabeled:
  • Staring at a speaker’s lips while lip/speech reading can come across as intimidating.
  • The intense concentration it takes to understand speech is often misinterpreted as anger.
  • Needing more time to process information, mispronouncing words, or the confusion resulting from ‘bluffing’ can be misinterpreted as a cognitive disorder or learning disability.
  • Poor voice modulation leads to a client or patient being flagged as depressed or having a health disorder.

Can you think of others?

We are so happy to support Gloria as she works to increase the therapeutic community’s understanding of hearing loss, and to deconstruct the myths and misconceptions that create confusion for both the practitioner and the client.

Watch our companion podcast with Gloria here.

If you liked this topic, try the Emotional Side of Hearing Loss, there are a lot of emotions that take time to process. Meaningful Connections with People is another good one. Gloria is a wonderful addition to our meaningful connections.

If you enjoy our content and find it helpful, please consider donating so that we can reach more people with hearing loss to help them help themselves.

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 deaf Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Live Theatre Speechreading/Lipreading

Michael Conley Playwright, Reading Lips

Our guest this week is playwright Michael Conley who talks about his play “Reading Lips“. Michael was born in a small town in Kansas. After high school in Chicago and college at the University Delaware, he moved to New York. He received his MFA in screenwriting from Columbia University. Michael currently resides in San Diego and is the Co-Vice President of the San Diego Chapter of Hearing Loss Association of America.

Michael’s plays have been presented in New York, San Diego and Philadelphia.

Michael: Writing “Reading Lips” brought out a part of my identity that I didn’t even know was there. Meeting people with a hearing loss and learning that they experienced the same challenges I have always faced made me realize that I’m part of a larger community. That although I had been struggling my whole life with developing tips on how to “get by” (as I call it), everyone else was trying to get by as well.

Working on the play introduced me to a lot of people I would otherwise not have met. Meeting those who used ASL to communicate made me want to learn ASL. That in turn led to studying Deaf Culture—this history that we all share (even if peripherally).

At the time, I thought “Deaf people” were only people who had no hearing at all. I remember asking someone who was completely deaf if they consider me as Deaf. “Sure!” Not only did that give me more insight into the range of hearing losses people have, but it also gave me an appreciation of how inclusive and embracing the Deaf Community is.

Chelle:
I love making connections with others who have hearing loss. Everyone has something to teach me. I attend Audible Talkers Toastmasters meetings which are held online. I’ve been a member for a year and a half. Their meetings are accessible to the Hard of Hearing (HoH) with live captioning and automatic speech recognition. HoH members get a transcript, or outline, of each speech before the meeting, allowing us to enjoy the live speech and provide more effective feedback. The club is supportive and their members, HoH, hearing, English as a second language, and more, are each fascinating in their own way.

Michael was a guest at recent meeting (anyone can attend as a guest). Alongside his name I noticed readinglips.com. Of course I had to investigate that! It turns out Michael is a playwright and that makes it all the more interesting so we invited him to podcast with us. It was great having him with us.

On his website, Michael shares information about his play, “Reading Lips”, a full-length play about being gay and Deaf. While writing the play, he posed the questions, “Am I gay man who happens to be Deaf? Or a Deaf man who just happens to be gay?” In the upcoming podcast with Hearing Loss LIVE!, Michael shares, “Having a hearing loss has made far more of an impact on the choices I made in life,” and that made me think.

Hearing loss changed the course of my life after the last big drop. How many times have I thought ahead and said, No I can’t go. It won’t be accessible to me. I quit the one job I thought I’d be doing all my life because of hearing loss. I went into a deep dark hole which took a few years to climb out of. Hearing loss impacts our lives in many ways.

Hearing loss affects relationships in our family too. During our podcast together, Michael tells a story about how growing up with a hearing loss affected his family life. I’m not going to spoil the story here, you’ll have to watch.

Gallaudet University Campus, Washington, D.C.

Photo Credit: Reading Lips website
June/July 2019: Michael Conley studying American Sign Language (ASL) at Gallaudet University, Washington, D.C., the world’s only university for the Deaf and people with a hearing loss.

Photo Credit: Reading Lips website

Michele: Before our podcast with Michael, I read everything on his website and searched for more information on the internet. I was especially interested in his experience at Gallaudet University, as I’ve thought about doing something similar—spending a semester or two studying American Sign Language (ASL) and immersing myself in a community rich in Deaf culture. I especially love Washington DC, so there’s that too.

Because there was a no-voicing policy in his program at Gallaudet, Michael talked about how liberating it was not to have to wear his cochlear implant (CI) or hearing aid, and not having to position himself to read people’s lips. I can relate. I’ve never worn hearing aids (other than in trials) or CI. If there is any consolation in not finding help with technology, it is a certain freedom from trying to hear better—something members of Deaf culture understand and embrace—which in turn has allowed me to focus more on communicating better.

I sometimes think people with hearing loss are so focused on their quest for technology to help them hear better, they miss the really important step of learning to be comfortable with who they are without any type of aid or communication tool.

We are likely never going to hear as well as we would like to in some situations—battery failure, too much noise or distance, and/or weak WiFi and cell phone service depletes the effectiveness of our hearing devices, assistive listening technology, and ASR (automatic speech recognition) apps. Even lipreading, textual English, and ASL are a challenge without a readable speaker, captioner, or interpreter.

However, if we can learn to communicate confidently even without any of the valuable communication tools and technology we rely on, we are going to have a life with fewer limits. That is no small thing.

Julia: We are always looking for like minded folks to podcast and blog with. Chelle asked us to review Michael’s website and see if we liked the fit. I read the first three lines of “Reading Lips” and responded, oh yes!

I love the theater. Grew up on it. By age eight I could tell folks what costumes were different in that season of Ballet West’s “The Nutcracker”. I love musicals and often sing show tunes around my house—some lyrics I make up depending on my mood. I’ll take thought provoking, personal growth and experience, small theater any day. I would love to see a production of this play. It’s different and refreshing. It’s about finding your identity. As much as I love the originals, small playhouses where the director and playwright work together I find so enjoyable.

The first time I met Michael was in a Hearing Loss LIVE! Self Advocacy workshop presented by Michele Linder. Michael asked a question, why would folks not just ask for what you need? Why indeed! We need more HoH people to adopt this mindset. Be proactive, be diverse. Be the best HoH you can be!

Watch our companion podcast with Michael.

If you liked this podcast, try artist Liza Sylvestre who explores her hearing loss through art. Also take a look at our blog with Salt Lake Acting Company who offers open captioned plays.