Conversation at the Supermarket

By Joanne Greenberg

Health.com
Health.com

I was standing near the onions trying to figure out which kind I wanted, when I spotted a neighbor who greeted me. During our chat, she mentioned that her husband had new hearing aids. “They cost a mint, but he never wears them. I’m exhausted by his saying. ‘What?’ all the time and having to repeat myself 3 or 4 times before he gets what I’m asking him, and I’m almost howling. All our incidental conversation has been lost, the little back-and-forth that’s half the fun of being with someone.”

I nodded. “Same here,” I said. I was aware of movement behind me. I turned and there were 4 women, all nodding, and then they all broke out with similar stories about hearing loss and the fact that the person isolated by it isn’t the only one suffering.

Joanne Greenberg was born in 1932, in Brooklyn, NY. She was educated at American University and received and honorary Doctorate from Gallaudet University – the world’s only college for the Deaf. She has written 2 books on the subject and has spent decades working with state mental hospitals for appropriate care for the mentally ill Deaf.

4 thoughts on “Conversation at the Supermarket

  1. The hard of hearing (HoH) and families need help understanding hearing loss and what a hearing aid (HA) can and cannot do.

    1 – a HA does NOT restore normal hearing – in fact, mine now has birds singing in tenor voices, but I can hear them. It would drive someone with formally normal hearing around the bend.

    2 – a HA can give people sound headaches and mine used to give me sound headaches on a daily basis. It was a misery. Two hours and then out each day for a week. Three hours and then out… and so on and so forth And sometimes they are simply overwhelming and I will not wear them – period.

    3 – a person wearing a HA needs support to learn to wear it over time. Start in a quiet environment. Realize that in loud environments they are useless without other adaptive equipment like FM systems and external microphones.

    4 – a HA is not like wash and wear clothing – it needs adjustments and at first the person needs to have their new best friend be the hearing aid tech – mine happens to be an electrical engineer who knows how to get the best out of everything and gives me lots of hints and tips. The HoH person probably does not know this.

    5 – if you don’t have a good HA tech to help with learning to use it, get a new HA center. They work for you, you don’t work for them.

    6 – Communicate with the loved one with hearing loss. Make sure you have their attention – walk in front of them or gently tap them on the shoulder. Ask them if they have their HA on. Go get it and ask them to put it in. Tell them you understand it can be depressing, but you WANT to communicate with them. Tell them you’ll support them in getting the best use and best fit – sometimes literally the fit is wrong and things hurt. Sometimes there need to be adjustments made.

    7 – Understand that unless you’re both going to learn sign language that you’ll never have total communication again – not the way it used to be. I was reading another blog on hearing loss and realized that I, too, am functionally totally deaf in a dark environment. Those little nothings – well, they’re really NOTHING. Don’t talk to the HoH in a dark environment – they need to see your mouth even if they don’t understand lip reading.

    8 – Don’t scream. It distorts sound and makes it harder to understand. Don’t yell in the ear – same thing.

    9 – buy pads of papers and keep pens next to them – use them to communicate. If your loved one will text, use text.

    10 – I regularly talk to spouses/parents of people who are ready to tear their hair out. I talk about my hearing loss, my struggles, and all the things I do to communicate. It is a two way street. I do wear my hearing aid more often than not, now. But I started on this path in the 1980’s – when they were still analog aids (sounded like people were hollering down a rain barrel).

    11 – Consider insisting your spousal unit get treatment for depression and talk with someone who specializes in grief counseling – then go yourself because you have lost something precious too. If your spousal unit or parent was dying, you’d get help, wouldn’t you?

    12 – last but not least, ask the HA tech to demonstrate to you what your spouse or parent hears. It can be done. Then you will have a better understanding.

    13 Most adults with hearing loss are terrified – they need mental health and family support. And families need support as well.

    (((((( Hugs to all the suffering family members too ))))))

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