Lately I’ve been enjoying getting ouside now that it’s spring. I have been walking in my neighborhood and also on my lunch breaks while at work. I love the way the air smells on a warm day after a good rain.
What’s bothering me is the comments people make. I know they’ve said something, but I can’t hear what. Often they will say something from across the street, or while they’re working in their own yards, so they are too far away for me to see their lips and tongue very well. I know from experience if I tell them I’m deaf, they will only shout louder. Which won’t help. Because I speak, it’s hard for others to grasp the fact that my hearing is really THAT bad. When I’m in my own neighborhood I don’t even wear my hearing aids while out walking. They get too sweaty and itchy. I hate them.
I suppose I could stop, walk over to whoever said something and tell them my life hearing history, but these are people I may never see again. On my lunch hour I’m pressed for time, and I’m trying to get a good twenty minute walk in. In my own neighborhood, without my hearing aids, it would be virtually impossible to carry on any kind of conversation with a random person whose voice I’m unfamiliar with, unless I’m close enough to really study their lips. This would mean stopping what I’m doing, crossing the street or getting up close to a stranger in their own yard. It’s just not something I want to do. So I usually smile and go on my way.
Of course I don’t know what they’ve said and that bothers me. Maybe it wasn’t friendly, or maybe they’ve asked a question. So the smile would be inappropriate and I would appear weird or rude.
I remember years ago when I used to run, I could still hear people from across the street. It was fun. I met people that way.
Sometimes, I miss that easy exchange with neighbors and people on the street. This is the crux of late-deafness. Being social once required no effort. Someone said something and you’d hollar back. Now I have to stop and explain, “Sorry I’m deaf, what did you say? Let me come a little closer so I can see your lips. . .” and after that the joke has faded. I walk away feeling I’ve shared something inappropriately personal with a virtual stranger. It’s an awkward moment. The other person was only aiming for a little bit of good-natured banter. I’ve never figured out how to handle this gracefully.