I'm Not Actually Listening to You

"Wait really? You're deaf?"
"I'm not deaf, I have a hearing-loss. I don't like wearing my hearing-aids though."
"Wow I honestly had no idea."
"I can hear a little but I mostly depend on lip reading."
"Ohhh... that explains a lot. Well geez I'm sorry that I'm always mumbling!"

My immediate thought is always: please don't be sorry, I'm the one who doesn't ever tell anyone about my dependency on lip-reading! Usually the conversation goes something like that. Then the cat is out of the bag, the invisible elephant is dealt with, and another person knows that I have a hearing-loss.

Some of my readers may already know about my hearing-loss because I've written about it every now and then. But for most of the other people I interact with in life, they don't know. Maybe it's because I've adapted well to my hearing-loss so that many who speak to me wouldn't know unless I said something, but lately I have had some other thoughts about what it means to 'adapt' to your disability.

I am fairly confident about the way I have adapted to my physical mobility issues. It also helps that my physical disability is visibly obvious through my wheelchair - people adapt to me because they recognize that the wheelchair requires accommodations. I have also adapted to my wheelchair by making sure that my mobility device doesn't overtake my identity as a person.
However, when it comes to my hearing-loss things get a bit trickier. It's not visibly apparent that I have a hearing-loss...admittedly because I don't wear my hearing-aids (but even if I did it might not be that obvious). Since most people don't know from looking at me, or from speaking to me for a few minutes that I have a hearing-loss, it doesn't cross their mind that they need to be making any accommodations for me. As a result I am the one who is usually adapting to them. I notice the way they speak, the way their mouth moves, I pick up on things like lisps and accents, I learn their pace of speech if it's rapid or slow; I also pay attention to what figures of speech they frequently use, what their face looks like when they're about to sneeze vs just about to start a new sentence, or if they have a tendency to turn away just as their sentences are finished.

These are all observations that I collect unconsciously. But each detail helps me to better 'hear' folks in a way that makes them most audible to me.

Thanks to years and years of speech therapy all throughout my schooling I am used to figuring out how to 'hear' people. And now that I don't get any speech therapy services I'm still learning, mostly on my own. That learning could be made a lot easier if I were just better at letting people know about my hearing-loss. The truth is I usually wait until someone tells me "Sandy I've been screaming at you for the past 5 minutes... why are you ignoring me?" Or someone will say "have you heard a word I just said, because you're being kind of rude.." Adapting to a disability doesn't mean that you wait until it's visibly or painfully obvious that something needs to be changed. Adaptation also shouldn't just be limited to one person doing all the work; it requires communication on all parties in order to actually be effective.

Well now that I know that... I just need to figure out a way to put it all into play. Here we go!

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