Hearing loss: How do you identify yourself to others?

Posted by linkeellis @linkeellis, Feb 7, 2019

As a long time member of the hearing loss group, and part of the entire dDeaf community, I find that many people have very definite ideas as to how they identify themselves: deaf, Deaf, hearing impaired, hard of hearing, stone deaf, can’t hear really well or some other term. I find myself changing my self-identification based on whom I’m talking. If it’s a culturally capital “D” Deaf person, I say I’m hard of hearing; to hearing people, I say I’m hearing impaired or oral deaf (because they know what that means: I speak); and to my hearing loss peers, I say I’m deaf (because I am). It’s a constant dance when I’m around Deaf people. The ASL community has many issues with deaf people who communicate orally and believe everyone should sign. But that’s not how many people come into the hearing loss andor deaf world. I’m curious to know what others do. There is no right or wrong here.

@tulip

One time, back when I had HA"s and they were not giving me a lot of benefit, I was pulled over for going 40 in a 30. I had no idea what the speed limit was, it was a 4 lane road. The police officer said something that I did not understand at first and then followed up with "from the look on your face, I can tell you didn't know". He asked me if I knew what the speed limit was on the road. The look on my face was because I didn't understand what he was saying :). I got off with a warning.

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@tulip you are lucky. I was arrested because they didn't believe my husband or myself that I couldn't walk a straight line in the middle of the night with a big flashlight in my eyes. They were pretty apologetic after taking me in and talking to me in a quiet well-lighted room. The fact that it was Christmas Eve made it worse. A warning is good!

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@linkeellis

@tulip you are lucky. I was arrested because they didn't believe my husband or myself that I couldn't walk a straight line in the middle of the night with a big flashlight in my eyes. They were pretty apologetic after taking me in and talking to me in a quiet well-lighted room. The fact that it was Christmas Eve made it worse. A warning is good!

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Golly! Policeman put flashlight toward your eyes that was difficult With your hearing loss walk on straight line. That was wrong. Glad they apology you.

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I find myself saying "I can't hear you" because normally that's what happens…people speak before ever being introduced. It makes the other person flustered.. repeating or shouting. So then I explain I'm deaf ….and get this sick smile look of pity sorry glance away. Sigh. I want to grab this speaker and say "hey I really would like to engage with you in conversation" but it's his or my next on line in the supermarket or where ever…and that's the end of that attempt to break thru social isolation.

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i usually say i am 'almost deaf' – my hearing has declined significantly, so i don't say that i am "hard-of-hearing" (or say i am REAAAAALLY hard of hearing!)
> having something to read is my dream, but it is extremely rare that someone will transcribe a conversation … end up being very *un-social*

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I totally know what you mean – not hearing well makes one feel very left out in social situations sometimes when you can't hear subject matter of conversations clearly enough to participate in them. I have top-line hearing aids, but still a challenge in crowds or where there is background noise.

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What sort of response do u get to that?

We should be able to come up with something that let's another person know that we do value the communication attempt. What s/he has to say is important to us so a little song and dance to help get the meaning across wouldn't be 'wrong'. It's just that these communications are so brief and the opportunities to have such encounter so rare that delivering a dissertation before kinda takes the spontainiety out of it.

I've been deaf for 70 years and still don't have an answer.

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When it's necessary, I usually say I'm "hard of hearing" or just "I don't hear very well sometimes." I used to say "hearing impaired" but have tried to get in the habit of using the "preferred" term, although it doesn't hold much more appeal for me. (I've read articles that say "hearing impaired" is "almost universally resented" by those to whom it is applied, so I try to respect that even though it doesn't matter to me personally. I believe language matters, but the terms seem mostly neutral and whatever word is used isn't going to change the reality of my hearing loss. Also, as the OP suggested, "hearing impaired" seems to be more immediately meaningful to hearing people.) I cope with hearing aids and have tried to become better with speech-reading techniques. This has been a struggle, albeit a positive one, because I'm naturally introverted and have always had a problem with making eye contact. As I said, I don't mind the labels, but I do get sick of jokes and become quite annoyed when speakers in large gatherings say, "Is it OK if I don't use the microphone?"

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@airotto370

Hello. I am profoundly deaf in my right ear, have a high frequency loss in my left. My family history is my maternal grandparents were both born hearing and lost their hearing as children (ages 3 an 7) due to illness/high fevers. My mother and her three siblings all had normal hearing throughout life. They all communicated with my grandparents by sign (Amslam). I was born with normal hearing but also lost what I have to high fevers as an infant. All four of my siblings have normal hearing. I always heard well enough that no need for sign language growing up. It is a sensory neural loss so an aid in my right ear would be of little value to me.
With me, I compensate really well and most people I interact with do not recognize I have hearing loss. I do struggle with group conversations where there is much ambient noise such as a restaurant. I lip read extremely well (perfected it tending bar in college). In business, it typically not an issue as even group meetings are normally devoid of much ambient noise so voices are clear. Conference calls are a different matter but that can be a painful experience regardless of your hearing ability.
In social group settings in loud places, I tend to focus on individual conversations and ignore the rest. My friends and family all know this but it does cause occasional frustration when I miss out on things but c’est la vie.
In business, I simply tell people sitting on my right that I am deaf in my right ear should I not respond if they are talking to me. Never an issue.
My wife and daughter are both SLPs and my daughter working in total communication as well as auditory/verbal therapy with a focus on cochlear implant recipients. Leads to occasional interesting conversations.
Bottom line, I guess I don’t truly “Identify” in respect to my hearing loss but manage situatinos depending on the setting.

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Hi,
You have a great attitude towards your hearing loss and learning to cope with everyday situations. Depending on the situation, I also respond or act in different ways. I started losing high frequencies in late 30s and had a slow, gradual decline over the years to the point that now I wear 2 BTEs and am essentially “deaf” without the aids.
What works best for me is telling people that “I read lips, I need to look at you to hear”. This seems to get their attention rather than saying I’m “hearing impaired” which is a term I always hated.

The best tip I ever got was to repeat to someone talking to you what you heard rather than have them say the whole thing over again. For example, someone says we are going to the gobbledygook restaurant for lunch. You heard everything but the name of the restaurant so you would say to them…what restaurant are we going to? Another thing I do is, if I have a Doctors appointment and I know the waiting room is large, I give the desk a small sign to clip on to the chart that says “Please note..Patient has hearing loss…May not hear name called,” I have a sign on my car visor that says I am hearing impaired…local police gave them out years ago. I use a captioned landline and Innocaption on my cell so I can hear and read at the same time.

As you said, group gatherings or noisey places like restaurants will always be difficult. I use a listening app on my cell phone that’s helpful. We are all fatigued at days end from trying to understand so it’s good to take breaks from large groups and it’s okay to bow out of certain social functions because you know it won’t be enjoyable. And there are good hearing days and bad hearing days.

Hearing loss can be isolating so it is important to put yourself out there and try different things and situations and aways have a smile and good humor approach to people. Make them comfortable but let them know how to accommodate you. I always advocate for myself…practice over many years….and take each day to day situation as it comes. Sometimes I bluff in those very brief encounters like in a supermarket line. Today’s technology has come so far in the 40 years I have been wearing hearing aids so there is no excuse for shutting yourself away. Your hearing loss is not your fault or anyone else’s and there is no reason to hide it.
I see I am on my soapbox again so I will close and wish you all a good hearing day.

Regards from ImAllEars

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@reallyrosie

What sort of response do u get to that?

We should be able to come up with something that let's another person know that we do value the communication attempt. What s/he has to say is important to us so a little song and dance to help get the meaning across wouldn't be 'wrong'. It's just that these communications are so brief and the opportunities to have such encounter so rare that delivering a dissertation before kinda takes the spontainiety out of it.

I've been deaf for 70 years and still don't have an answer.

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i feel the same way!

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@cherriann

I totally know what you mean – not hearing well makes one feel very left out in social situations sometimes when you can't hear subject matter of conversations clearly enough to participate in them. I have top-line hearing aids, but still a challenge in crowds or where there is background noise.

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me too

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In reply to @chunwa "me too" + (show)
@chunwa

I'm glad people recognize we aren't the "only ones" and can feel connected to a group ! What are the best coping strategies? This is not ideal…it should change so how? Banned together with only other deaf/ h-o-h people ? (Segregate ourselves)? Fake it in large family/friends groups and bury the feelings? Demand that the group acknowledge that we don't follow the conversation easily and try to control how they are communicating? Never go anywhere without a person u know who will be easy to lip-read so u understand SOMETHING during the time? Refuse to join groups bigger than 2???. Stay home, watch TV and play phone games. Better than being in a crowd of people by purpose fully enjoying a museum tour while we don't know what the heck the guide us saying??? Pretend that that last scene doesn't bother us and at least we we're mingling with other people and got to see what everyone else understands more closely than we do….

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I have a moderate to severe hearing loss which came on around age 50. So far, I usually say "I'm hard of hearing" , but that's really not very descriptive. I wish I would remember to say what would help me hear better (i.e. I need to be able to see your face when we're speaking, or could we move to a quieter area). I guess it's a lifetime of learning how to communicate better with the hearing! Thanks for the post – it's a great topic!

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