They call you from another room, talking away as if you are listening. But, of course, you can’t hear them. Once they realize you haven’t responded, you see them appear frustrated, as if you are the problem. Then, they’ll ask if you are wearing your hearing aids, expecting your hearing aid to be the miracle cure for hearing loss.
Slowly over time, it’s too difficult for them to communicate with you. Then, finally, you both start to talk less and less. You’re feeling lost and alone now, like a ghost who is just a shadow in their eyes.
Most of us are the only people or a few with hearing loss that our family knows. Often they have developed a habitual way of communicating and don’t realize that they need to change to become better communicators for our situation.
How can you better feel understood by your family?
Learning ASL will not solve the communication problem when you are the only one learning. While connecting with other people who are deaf and hard of hearing like you may help you feel understood, it still doesn’t change your situation at home.
What you have is a communication problem
Often we think our hearing loss or inability to hear is the core issue of the problem. What is the real problem is that we need to communicate better. And when I say we, I mean yourself, your family, and those you care about.
They say that communication is a two-way street, and it’s true. We need to be more assertive about how we need to hear, and our family needs to adjust how they talk around us.
Communication is about being your authentic self and understanding. It’s about getting to know someone better. Communicating can create a pathway to begin to help one another. No one can read our minds, and by being better communicators, you can see a shift in how others interact and connect with you.
What you can say
It is hard for hearing people to understand what else they need to do to hear better. And suppose they believe that hearing aids or cochlear implants are considered to make you hear everything. In that case, they are operating under a false assumption that they don’t need to change how they speak to you but repeat.
Most of us will find ourselves habitually saying “What?”, “Repeat that,” “I can’t hear you,” and nothing else. We must add more to the conversation to encourage and show how to help us hear better.
There are usually two challenges with our hearing: clarity and volume. Most of the time, clarity is the issue. We can get clarity by lip-reading the other person. However, if lip reading is not your thing, you can gain clarity by having someone speak up or take the time to enunciate their words.
“I’m willing to listen, but I need to make eye contact and speak directly to me.”
“Let’s set a time to connect. Just the two of us talking in a quiet space. I want to hear what you have to say. My hearing aids, or cochlear implant won’t work for this.”
“I’m hoping I don’t have to ask you to repeat. Can you say that again but a [bit louder for me, by looking at me, or clearly for me]
Acknowledge when things are going well
When you notice that you understand what someone is saying, or when your family shows improvement, it is worth letting them know. The goal is to continue to bring awareness to your needs.
Remember that you can’t control what others say or don’t do. However, if you share core values of respect and compassion, it would be much easier for both of you to make the change.
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