Communication Practices Hard of Hearing Hearing Loss Misconceptions

Hearing Loss Misconceptions

Hearing Loss LIVE! talks a lot about the general misconceptions associated with hearing loss and the Hard of Hearing; here are just a few:

  • All people with hearing loss know and use sign language.
  • Hearing aids correct hearing like eyeglasses do vision.
  • Hearing loop technology is outdated.

However, there are many misconceptions that our family and friends, and even strangers have about us specifically.

We seem angry, or mad.

Michele: A few years ago I wrote a blog article for the SayWhatClub entitled, “6 Common Misconceptions About People With Hearing Loss. Unfair judgment and wrong assumptions are the norm in my family and that’s not a good thing. I remember talking to my daughter about being noisy because I don’t hear myself. She said, “I never knew that. When I was little I always thought that when you were banging around in the kitchen you were mad.” I asked her why she thought that. After a pause, she said “Because Dad always made it seem like you were mad.”

Do you get a bad rap because of your hearing loss?

We ask too many questions.

One issue I have (included in the article linked above) is with asking questions. People with hearing loss ask a lot of questions, not because we love doing it, but because we don’t have the benefit of overhearing. Sometimes my questioning is an irritant to my family members. Example: When on an outing or traveling with my family, I seem to never know the POD (plan of the day) and ask a lot of questions, which tends to drive my family batty.

What my family fails to understand is that HoH people have a need to know, because knowing what to expect—anticipation—is a big part of our skillset. Because we don’t get all of the information we need through communication, we have a whole bag of tricks to help us stay on top of what is happening; knowing more helps us set ourselves up for optimum participation and lessens anxiety.

We miss incidental information others take for granted.

When we are not given information directly and intentionally, we naturally are going to ask a lot of questions. And if we are made to feel as if our questions are bothersome, and we try to temper them; then, we make wrong assumptions.

This past summer I was visiting with my son and daughter-in-law. We had been to a birthday brunch for my DIL and the plan was to head to a birthday party afterwards. On the way, my son stopped at their apartment, which wasn’t part of the plan that was shared with me earlier. He pulled to the curb for my DIL to get out, and waited. I assumed it was just a stop to pick something up that was forgotten, but after about ten seconds, my son said, with a bit of a tone, “Are you getting out, Mom?” I answered that I didn’t know I was supposed to get out, reminding him that I don’t overhear conversation and if I was supposed to get out, he needed to tell me that directly.

I’m curious about what others have to contribute to the list of misconceptions that hearing family and friends have about them. 

Hearing aids, or CI’s, correct the loss.

Chelle: The misconception that bugs me most is hearing aids, and cochlear implants (CI), fix hearing loss. Hearing aids and CI’s help, I wear hearing aids, but they do not give me full hearing back. I didn’t know this for years myself. It would have been helpful for me when people said things like:

  • “Are your ears on?” Yes, but I still didn’t understand. That left me wondering  what was wrong with me.
  • “Turn up your hearing aids!” That never seemed to work either. In fact, turning them up made me clench my jaws with all the extra noise they picked up and I still did not understand speech any better. Clarity and facing me makes a difference. Less background noise makes a difference.  
Hearing aids and CI’s have limitations.

For 18 years I did not know hearing aids had limitations. When I learned, I was angry. Why wasn’t I told this before? So much made sense. I only get a maximum of 60% word discrimination in quiet environments. Hearing aids work best within 6 feet. People need to face me when talking because I use lipreading, something else no one explained. Reverberation and harsh acoustics also affect hearing aids. Now I have work arounds in place and I’m more successful with my hearing loss, and hearing aids, because of it.

Hearing loss isn’t hearing everything lower and needing more volume. Many of us hear certain sounds very well and have trouble hearing other sounds. I hear the garbage truck coming down the street but I can’t hear my cat meow when he’s at my feet. I hear men better than women and vowels more than consonants. The majority of us need clarity, not volume. Volume distorts as our hearing aids already provide a lot of that.  

Look of Concentration

Another thing I’m accused of is being unfriendly and angry. I’m not angry, it’s my focused look. It takes a lot of work piecing together sounds with lipreading. My eyes narrow, my eyebrows go down and I hold my lips tight in concentration. I’ve learned to tell new groups of people about my concentration look so they don’t confuse it with being mad. You might recognize this as a sign of hearing loss in others. I’m not the only one who does it.

CART/live captioning is too expensive. False.

Julia: I want to talk about the misconceptions in my line of business as a CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) provider. Misconceptions CART has faced for the 20 plus years I’ve been a provider and the HoH people it’s meant to serve. When you use the business model one size fits all, then you have a large misconception about hearing loss accommodations.

My top pet peeve, CART providers cost too much. Even my own Division of Services of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing had me believing this. FOR YEARS. Guess what? It’s not true! 

Here are a few other common misconceptions:

  • The tax breaks for CART aren’t the same as for interpreters. Guess what? Not true! 
  • Businesses can contract/negotiate reduced rates with local ASL interpreting companies, but CART companies won’t come to the table. Guess what? Not true!
CART is a dying profession. False.

A recent misconception I have been dealing with is that CART is a dying business. STOP THE MADNESS!!! CART was in high demand during the first year of the pandemic. People got used to asking for it and more businesses learned what it was. We are only dying if businesses continue to deny appropriate accommodations when requested. Human skill and reasoning still rate higher than artificial intelligence. 

I am happy to advise and train any organization on how CART can be utilized and incorporated into your business. It has more benefits than you may think.

For more information…

Watch our companion podcast on Misconceptions.

If you liked this post, try Defining the Hard of Hearing because we are often mixed in the Deaf. If you have troubles at doctor appts, offer them the course from The Better Connect Academy.

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