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Gael Hannan on Hard of Hearing Weekends

One of Those (Hard of Hearing) Weekends

By Gael Hannan, 2/12/2013 ·

Have you ever had one of those hours, or days, or weekends when hearing loss seems to play a starring role as the bad guy?

If you’re like me, your hearing loss is constant – it’s always there, like the air you breathe, the clothes you put on. It’s inescapable, and we live with it the best way we know how. But there are times when that flickering pilot light of our hearing loss becomes a fire, creating challenging hard of hearing moments and even full-on crappy-hearing days  that linger in our emotions and memory, if we let them.

I have a friend who, every Sunday night, reviews his week’s accomplishments, then updates his To Do List with positive strategies for the next seven days. He makes me crazy. And recently I heard a Deaf man say, “Every morning I wake up and wonder ‘what barriers am I going to face today’?”  He made me sad.

I’m kind of in-between.  This past Sunday night, pausing briefly before turning out the light, I thought to myself, “Now that was one hell of a hard-of-hearing weekend!” Oh, nothing particularly unusual or bad happened; there just seemed to be an unusual amount of communication challenges within a short timeframe.

On Friday night, the Hearing Husband and I decided to walk to the local fish ‘n’ chips place for dinner, just a half-mile away. But first we had to dig ourselves out because Toronto had just received a dump of snow more than a foot deep. After he snow-blowed and I shoveled, we made it to the street and started walking.

It was tough going – the unshoveled sidewalk was rutted with the foot-wells of people who had struggled ahead of us. The real challenge was in walking single file…in the same direction…in the dark.  Speechreading was impossible so we stumbled silently to the restaurant, where we rewarded ourselves with  some nice halibut and wine.

The next day was beautiful and sunny, with that special snowy quietness. A thick layer of snow acts like indoor carpeting – it absorbs sound rather than reflecting it.  (Falling snow does the same thing and standing in a windless, quiet snowfall is one of life’s most peaceful moments.)  I wanted to take a picture of our house because, with the snow piled on the roof, it looked like a gingerbread house with white frosting, only not so sickly-sweet.   I stood on the street taking a few shots with my iPad – quickly, because my fingers were crisping up with the cold. Finishing, I turned to go back in the house and found myself smack in front of a small truck that was trying to get through the still unplowed street.

The shock made me jump half a foot.   The driver had stopped, waiting for me to finish, and I had not heard a sound – partly because of the snow, partly because of concentrating on my task, and mostly (I’m guessing)  because  I’m hard of hearing.    I was rattled, but got a great photo of my winter house.

On Sunday evening, as we got ready for my son’s hockey game, there was the usual  move-your-butt-we’re-running-late kind of family nattering going on around the house.  Yelling up the stairs at my son, struggling with a two-storey conversation, I finally asked him to kindly come down so I could understand what he was saying. He tapped me on the shoulder from behind. He had been downstairs and came up to find me yelling up the stairs at a phantom. He found this very funny – me, not so much.

The hockey game was particularly noisy because two teams were vying for a certain playoff position and if you don’t know junior hockey, take it from me – there is nothing noisier than parents at hockey game.  And, unlike the quietness of snow, hockey arenas are full of hard surfaces and teenage hockey players chirping at each other.  It’s hard on the hearing aids but fun, even though we lost the game.

My reward for enduring a noisy arena, however, was coming home to watch my two favorite shows – The Walking Dead and Downton Abbey – that we had recorded with our new PVR.  It was late, so my son and I had time to watch only one of the shows, so we settled on a little zombie-smushing to put us to sleep.

No captioning. We couldn’t figure why the PVR recording had shut out the CC, but I decided to muddle through, using my son to fill in the bits I wasn’t getting.  Well, I didn’t get anything, hardly a single word of dialogue beyond sorry, yes and no.  I think that’s what they said, but it’s hard to tell with a show full of characters who aren’t big lip-movers, use minimal facial expressions and spend much of the time facing away from the camera.  At the end of the show I had a new and frustrated sense of how really hard of hearing I am.  The same show, captioned,  was just starting in a different time zone,  and I watched for a few minutes, comprehension flooding over me like rain on a hot, dusty day.

Before turning out the light for the night, I thought, “Now that was one hell of a hard-of-hearing weekend!” I mentally reviewed what I learned from my challenges:  do not talk when you walk single file in the dark, do not stand in the road with your back to traffic, don’t talk to phantom children, hockey arenas  are noisy, and uncaptioned TV shows will make you crazy.

Then I made a mental To Do note for the coming week:  I will remember that hearing loss challenges take up only some of my time – the rest is filled with the better stuff.

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