Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Please don't tell me it's not important

I searched the airline employee's face in frustration. She had just made an announcement about my flight. At least I think she did. I heard "12 minutes" but that was about it; her mouth was obscured by the loudpseaker she was using to get her point across. I couldn't read her lips and I didn't understand what she was saying. I stole a quick glance around and noted that none of the other passengers waiting at the gate seemed alarmed by her message, so I was assured that there was no cause for concern.

But still. I had to solve the mystery of the 12 minutes because I like to know things. I'm nosy like that. So I asked the person next me. I explained that I was hard of hearing but I didn't catch the announcement. Could he please tell me what it said? He was kind to oblige me and as it turned out, we would be leaving in 12 minutes (I know, riveting solution, you can rest easy now). But then he said, "It wasn't anything important."

I smiled and thanked him but inwardly, I was groaning. It may not have been important to you, I grumbled on the inside, but it might have been to me!

I know, I know. In the grand scheme of things, no, it wasn't that important. I could have easily deduced what the 12 minutes were about and knowing that there wasn't an emergency, I could have boarded the plane in peace. And it's very likely that the gentleman who told me it wasn't important was just trying to assure me that there wasn't anything crazy going on.

Growing up, though, "It's not important" were three difficult words to swallow. "What did he say?" I'd ask a friend, because I so desperately wanted to know what everyone else knew, to fit in, to belong. "It's not important," was a common reply, because it would have taken too long to repeat, maybe. Or it was too complicated to explain. Maybe it really wasn't important.

The thing is, though, we don't get to decide what information matters to someone else. We can't assume that because we find one piece of information useless that someone else will feel the same way about it. We don't know what's going on in someone else's life or plans or day - maybe they really do need that information, however inconsequential it seems to us. It's kind of like a detective show... we've probably all seen an episode of CSI/Law and Order/NYPD Blue/(insert favorite cop show here) where a rookie cop overlooks an important piece of evidence that would have sent the bad guy right to jail. He didn't speak up because he thought it didn't matter, but if he had just passed his information on, the case would have closed long ago.

Are you with me? When it comes to hearing loss, those of you who can hear would be doing those of us who cannot a huge favor if you just pass the information on and let us decide for ourselves how to use it. When others decide whether something is important or not, sometimes I feel as if they're really saying that I'm not intelligent enough to make my own decisions - and that is harder to deal with than the hearing loss itself.


  1. Was last week your first time at an HLAA Convention? This was my fourth (DC `88, Nashville `09, Milwaukee `10, DC `11), and it was a smashing success.

    Last year, in the run-up to the Convention, I posted this blog entry about what my friend Christie Nudelman found when she attended her first Convention -- It's the exact opposite of what you posted here~

  2. Hi Dan, yes this was my first convention. Thanks for sharing Christie's thoughts. Sounds like she had a great experience and I did, too... so I wouldn't classify her thoughts as the "opposite" of mine. I just haven't had time to write the glowing report that I want to yet. :) Soon, I hope!

    Thanks for reading!

  3. So nice to "meet" you. And this post completely rang true for me. I hesistate to write about it sometimes, because I know it triggers sympathy more than empathy, and that's never my intent.

    But personally? (And I know that you're not supposed to start sentences with "but". Aww heck, I just started one with "and" too! *sigh*). Airports are my very least favorite place. So many pieces of information critical to "getting to the next stop". And none of it communicated effectively to deaf travelers. So difficult, so anxiety-inducing for me!

    The "it wasn't important" - something I've struggled with all my life. It has a side effect of making you feel like someone else is treating you like a child in deciding what you should or should not hear. Feels exclusionary because every other hearing person gets to decide for themselves.

    I hope that people will read here to understand how it might feel. Education is the only way to change this and I think you put it so well!