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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.

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