Monday, September 13, 2010


So often people will ask me if I "heard" something. Did you hear that noise? Can you hear the TV? I used to say yes, because I could, in fact, literally "hear" what they were talking about. The sound traveled to my hearing aids and somehow to the part of my brain that understands there was a noise.

But hearing is not the same as understanding. I can hear that noise, but I can't identify its origin. I can hear the TV playing, but I cannot attach words and phrases to the din. My hearing aids help me hear, but I need more than a hearing aid (lipreading, an interpreter, captioning, etc) to help me understand.

I have pretty poor speech recognition; that is, I cannot really understand much unless I am facing the speaker and lipreading or listening to something or someone (like a song or someone reading from a book) and reading along with it. I can't understand something by hearing alone, I need some kind of visual cue to go along with it.

So while I'm flattered when people are impressed that I "do so well" communicating, I'm also a little frustrated because what they don't see is how hard I work to do so well - and they don't know all the times I am faking it! And I wonder sometimes if they think I must not need very much help because I "do so well."

I feel like I'm constantly walking a fine line with hearing loss. On one hand, I feel like I have to prove that it really does disrupt my life and change experiences for me; on the other hand, I have to prove that I am still capable of doing things, like carrying on a conversation in a crowded restaurant, for example, even if it means I have to work a little harder. I'm both more and less capable than I let on.

Have you ever felt like that? What was it like?


  1. I've been told I do well too. Yet I don't feel they know or understand just how difficult and tiring it can be. Even though I have tried to explain.

    They have not even seen those very rare days I get, where I struggle that bad because my tinnitus has flared up big time, that I have to resort to pen and paper to communicate.

  2. This is one of the things I'd love to be able to teach the world - the difference between detection and understanding. Though I don't personally know what it's like, I know that it must be exhausting. I hope you get plenty of down time with people who don't force you to constantly prove yourself. We all need that.

  3. that is some interesting insight!

  4. I got this in class last night "You don't look deaf!"

    Really, what does deaf look life?