A Hearing Loss & Late Deafened Blog

I’m Tired Of Feeling Excluded

In Uncategorized on September 28, 2008 at 1:36 pm
This is a rant, but if it educates just one person with perfect hearing I’ll feel it was a success.  I’m tired of being excluded from office chat at work, from family chat at home and from general discussions everywhere else. 
Friday morning, like every other morning I work, four of us were getting ready for the day before our library opened.  There’s much to do– preparation for morning story hour, counting and recording monies from the previous days’ take in fine payments, checking in books that were returned over night, processing of the daily newspapers, maintenance of the public computers before our doors open, pulling holds people didn’t pick up, restocking hold shelves with that day’s delivery.  It’s a busy time of day for us.  But since no one else is in the library this is also the time we chit-chat about our personal lives– things we wouldn’t want library patrons to hear.  It’s not conducive to lip reading.  One is stuck behind a computer so I can’t see her lips and one is unloading boxes, constantly turning around while talking.  The other has her back to all of us while checking through paperwork.  
For me the chit-chat sounds something like this–
“Hey!” coworker 1 enters excitedly, “blahblahblahblah! Hi Kim! Blahblah.”
“Hi,” I smile, “how are you?”
“Oh blahblah blahblahblah blah blah blah?”
Coworker 2 pipes in, “blah blah blah blahblah?   (laughter between coworker 1 and 2)
Me to coworker 3– What did they say?”
No response from coworker 3, then she pipes up “Blahblaha blahblah blahhhh”
More laughter from coworker 1 and 2.
“What’d she say?,” I ask coworker 2. 
Coworker 1 pipes in.  “blahblahblah blah blah blahblah”
Corker 1, 2 and 3 all laugh heartily.
“What’d she SAY?” I ask, “What are you talking about?”
“Wednesday,” Coworker 2 finally explains.  And that’s it.  I have no idea what she’s talking about — or even which Wednesday.  Last Wednesday?  What happened last Wednesday?  Are they making plans for THIS Wednesday coming up? 
Coworker 3 says something unintelligible, then coworkers 1 and 2 answer.  More laughter.  It continues on like this for another fifteen minutes or so.  I give up and concentrate on work.  I have things to do.    
Later someone will be surprised I didn’t know about blah blah blahblah, because I was right there in the room when they were talking about it.  I’ll mention I couldn’t hear them, then they will ask, “Why didn’t you TELL us you couldn’t hear what we were saying?”  A reminder will follow. “You should ALWAYS say something when you can’t hear, I’ll be GLAD to repeat. . .” How many times have I heard that?  The reality is different.
When I go home that night, it’s the same thing.  My husband and son talk about something in the kitchen while I’m on a sofa just a few feet away in the family room.  I ask what they’re discussing.  A one word summary of a five minute conversation follows.  They’re discussing “football” or “Palin” or “Saturday night.”  I don’t want to interrupt their fun, so I give up and go back to my book where I can ‘hear’ all the conversations.  
I feel invisible. 
  1. Well, started to comment here, but glanced over and saw I had left the kitchen facet running, yet again. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…

    Kim, if it makes you feel any better (and I know it won’t) I share your feeling of invisibility. I have been on vacation all week with five other ladies and the entire week has gone much the same as your library conversation with co-workers. These ladies are friends and are mostly accommodating to my not hearing, but I miss all the little snippets of conversation spoken while they are doing something else.

    When you find out how to deal with this, let me know. I too have given up trying to keep up with what my husband and son are talking about around the house. They don’t mean to exclude me, and aren’t even aware they are, most of the time. So I give up, just like you… and sometimes I have to go in the other room and cry.


  2. Welcome to the club. 😦

    I cannot understand how so many people can be so insensitive, but they just don’t use common sense.

  3. I know what it was like! We are like Ghosts who are still walking on earth even “insensitive” people still do not noticed us. Try to confront coworkers and your husband. Jusr remind them that Life is always too short!

    Charles the Rogue

  4. jeez! I know exactly how u feel. No matter how many times I tell people I have a hearing problem, they don’t freaking understand that I can’t hear them and this includes family and people who work in the field of hearing loss.

    I am at a point in my life, where I have no patience or time for stupidity and ignorance. And as far as I’m concerned, people who are insensitive and make no effort to understand communicaton with me, are useless to me. They are officially on my shit list. I usually give them one opportunity with one explanation.

    Here’s a perfect example, I go to the same hairstylist for years to get my haircut. He actually understands that when my hearing aid is off while he’s cutting my hair, he will not attempt to speak with me. If he has something important to ask or tell me, he points to my hearing aid and asks me to put it on a second.
    However, the woman who washes my hair is like DUH! Every single time she gets ready to wash my hair, I show her that I’m taking my hearing aid off, put it in my bag and tell her, I will not be able to hear anything she says.
    Without fail, I sense her asking me something, I look at her, have a clue what she’s asking me but have decided after all these years, I am not going to respond. She just doesn’t get it. Then again, do I really expect a 20 year old bobber with boobs hanging out of her shirt and waiting for the weekend to go out and drink herself silly to understand disabilities?

    It’s like reaching that age when u are thru explaining to people why u do things a certain way. I’ve reached an age where I’ve settled into my life, have my friends and am not really interested in making new ones. Thats how I feel about my hearing loss. If someone can’t understand the affects/effects, screw them….I’m tired of being a martyr.

  5. This is what mystifies me about hearing people. You might have the most enlightned, sensitive and closely allied hearing people, and they will completely forget that you don’t hear what they do. Speaking to them about it works for a little while, then whoosh, it’s forgotten, as if it’s not part of hearing nature to remember.

    No wonder the Deaf community is so strong and close-knit. It is a refuge where we feel like normal people.

  6. P,
    I know what you mean about having no patience. I’m at a point now where I’m just tired of it all. Tired of explaining. Tired of fighting. Tired of idiots and insensitive people. I have a couple close friends who I value more than anything because they get it. But I’m also scared to death something will happen to them.

    I’ve just recently switched hair salons after going to the same place for over 20 years. The lady who cut my hair had a step daughter who was deaf, so she understood about hearing loss. Like all of us over fifty, she has developed health issues and is winding down her business. I was forced to find someone new last time I had my hair done.

  7. I understand the feeling too. I even come up with a game where I force people to backtrack all the way to the beginning of the converstation.

    Be persistant. Otherwise, love them for being stupid.

  8. Dianrez,
    But being late-deafened like I am, I don’t feel welcome in the Deaf community either. There are those who would turn their backs on me because I’m not fluent in ASL. Given the choice I’d rather spend time with well-meaning hearing people who forget than Deaf people who would reject me flat out. It’s not like we can go from speaking English to using ASL perfectly in one day, or even one year. I realize not all deaf are like that, but it only takes one super hurtful experience with a Deaf person to decide it’s better to remain with the hearing people we know despite their faults. I envy the close, easy relationships of both communities while knowing at the same time I’ll never be fully included in either.

  9. Hi Michele,
    I used to have a nice little group of friends like that. We used to travel together. Then one moved across the country and another got divorced and moved away. I’m down to two really close friends I’ve known for decades. They make every effort to include me, but there are times I don’t understand what they’re saying of course. I think it’s as confusing for them since I used to hear better than I do now.

  10. Kim,

    I do know what you mean. Unfortunately the Deaf Community isn’t always welcoming to late-deafened people who are not fluent in ASL. It’s also due to cultural differences, too. So I can understand why you feel more comfortable with hearing friends as you both share the same culture.

  11. Yea, same here! That’s why I don’t always join my co workers for any events. Like last Friday, there was an Ice Cream Gathering at my work, I just went and collected ice cream and then went back to my office. I didn’t want to sit there looking like a zombie!

  12. I know how frustrating it can be! Good thing we all are here and we know what it is like.

    I have a pet peeve with hearing people who are fluent in sign language, yet when they are talking to a hearing person, they “forget” to use sign language so we deafies cannot understand what they are talking about. And they get upset if you remind them to use signs. Double standards here, huh.

  13. I certainly understand everyone’s feelings about not wanting to sit there like a zombie or invisible. But if you care (most times I dont) but if u care and want to be part of it, let it be known for gods sake. bring a pen and pad with you, ask your boss to allow u to do a staff development about hearing loss and share the following site with them and make them understand what it is to be hearing impaired. do power points with various hearing losses and what they sound like by using the sites below. cut and paste if necessary

  14. I have felt that way many times. Invisible and left out. Over the years, I have made lifetime friends. The ones who go out of the way to include me in conversations. I must say there are times that even with my hearing aids, I just didn’t care to concentrate to be included. It was too stressful.

    I am reflecting back on over a year with CIs. Has it made a differences in group conversations, yes. I don’t have to depend on others as much and stress now is oh 70 – 90% better.

    Hey Kim your welcome in my community. I respect you for you.

  15. Kim,

    I’ve been there and I understand exactly what you experienced with your co-workers. I know invisibility in the workplace, at home, at family gatherings, many other situations. I had to learn second-hand from my hearing sib’s the remembrances that family friends talked about after my father’s funeral service. It was not that comforting, to hear it second-hand. Zombie state, that one.

    You want to add another pal to your circle of friends, I’ll be there, if you want to include me.

  16. Mishkazena is right, unfortunately. People don’t feel comfortable with someone who doesn’t speak their language, much to their loss. However, as you said, not everyone is like that…please do build your deaf community friendships one by one and don’t paint everybody by a single boor.

  17. Great rant Kim – you’ve described perfectly what I feel often. I guess everyone has their own “solution” that works best for them.

    I usually just dismiss the insensitive ones unless it’s crucial for me, in which case I MAKE them notice me. 😉 I also remind myself that many of them will be joining our (LD/HOH) ranks eventually. Doesn’t solve the problem, but feels a little like payback. 🙂

    Paul S

  18. Deaf people need assertion training and confidence building classes. Being invisible won’t be cured by bemoaning the fact, you get in there pitch in, show willing, the first 10 years are the worst ! Mostly if you show willing and perservere contacts can be established, but if you recoil thinking I can’t hear what they are saying and worry about that, then outside is where you will always be.

    I used to dive in, in ignorance mostly ! and looked very silly for a very long time, at one point I thought, what’s the point of this ? and retreated to the relative sanity of the deaf areas, but it wasn’t me. I knew I was missing out. So went back into the fray, 5 years I was called the village idiot. I didn’t react by being openly upset by that.

    It took along time, in the end people would say here comes MM he doesn’t hear a word, and I found people started to accommodate me and include. I suppose it depends a lot on how you can bounce back, I went rock bottom and had to bounce VERY high to get on the lower rung again, it’s tiring, but I feel worth it. I don’t think concessions and laws do it, do you ? this is not how it works in real life…

    We have to find our own level…
    Settling for a little less, is sometimes better than settling for nothing at all…

  19. Dear Kim,
    I am the hearing daughter-in-law of my husbands Deaf parents. I see this happening all the time at family functions and I feel so bad. Sometimes people will try and interpret for my in-laws, other times they don’t. I have taken two courses in ASL, one in Sign and one in Deaf Culture, the rest I have tried to learn on my own. To the best of my abilities I try and relay what is going on. I know my signing skills are not the best yet, but I try. To me it just seems like “bad-manners” to talk in front of people and not make them part of the conversation. Just wanted you to know that there are hearing people out there who care and I am sorry that other people are so insensitive around you. God Bless.

  20. DeafMommy, not only is it very rude, it’s also an attitudinal problem. If they really consider you an equal, they won’t have dropped the signing while talking to a hearing person in front of you.

  21. “You might have the most enlightened, sensitive and closely allied hearing people, and they will completely forget that you don’t hear what they do. Speaking to them about it works for a little while, then whoosh, it’s forgotten, as if it’s not part of hearing nature to remember.”

    Hi, enlightened, forgetful hearing guy here.
    I want you to know that if I overlooked you in the conversation, I am sorry. I am taking medication for it. (for the forgetfulness / distraction, not for the hearing). I hope you don’t stop reminding me, but I don’t blame you if you do.

    I have some small idea what it’s like, when I go to a deaf chat, and watch people talking.
    I have tried, and am still trying to learn sign language, but I think my “wiring” may be to old for that. So I sit and watch. Then I give up and go home. I can’t seem to learn in a class, and I don’t get to use it much when I go to a chat, so what I’ve learned gets lost. Thankful for blogs, and captioned vlogs.

    I hope we both understand that it’s not a question of “hearing folks”, but “people” that are sensitive or insensitive, responsive or non-responsive, inclusive or exclusive, forgetful or thoughtful.

    Mostly, you’ll find me in a corner anyway. Sit next to me, I’ll transcribe what I hear for you. You’ll have to read in between the doodles though.

  22. Wow– I just realized there were all these comments and I hadn’t been notified!! So sorry for keeping them up in the air so long. Sometimes a rant is just that. It helps to know others feel the same way and that I’m not being overly sensitive or whatever.

    Bill, I realize hearing people do not do it on purpose. Many of them have their own issues as well. Thanks for reminding me.

    Lori, it was so nice to hear your side. Of course I don’t think ALL hearing people are insensitive. Your in-laws are so lucky to have a daughter-in-law like you. Interpreting isn’t easy even when you’re fluent in ASL. It says so much that you’re willing to try.

    Mishka and Deaf Mommy, I don’t know what to say about people who stop signing, but continue talking right in front of you! It does seem very rude! Hasn’t happened to me because none of my family members sign well enough. I’m lucky if they remember to sign anything.

    MM– You’re so right about confidence training. Deafness can be hard on the self-esteem, especially if you’re late-deafened.

    Ann_C–I can’t think of a worse oversight than not including accommodations at your own father’s funeral!! I went to my husband’s uncle’s funeral recently. Even though we sat in the second row I wasn’t at a good angle to lip read and couldn’t understand a thing. My FIL gave a touching eulogy. Would have been nice to hear what he said. Yep– I consider you a friend too! 🙂

    Valerie–It’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I hate wearing my hearing aids at home. Doesn’t seem to make a huge difference as far as my ability to “hear.” I’m glad to hear your CI has helped so much! I respect you for YOU too. 🙂

    Paul– yes- I’ve learned over the years not to bother with insensitive people. Today one of my coworkers retired. She was one of the few who GOT IT. I’m going to miss her. But now that she’s not working, I hoep we can get together for coffee.

    Julie– I have avoided a lot of after work social events too. Unfortunately, because we’re such a small group I’m afraid I now have a reputation for being kinda anti-social or standoffish. I want to change that, so I went to the retirement party today, served punch, talked to a couple people in a corner, but didn’t stay long– just long enough so everyone knew I participated.

    Dianrez– It’s funny what you say about people not feeling comfortable with those who speak other languages. I’ve found that those who seem the most patient with my hearing loss are people who don’t speak english as their first language. They must know what it’s like not to understand when people are talking, and also being excluded. It’s interesting. . .

  23. TOTALLY appreciate your rant, which also describes my experiences. Hearing people are always forgetting. I have not been around enough oral deaf or hard of hearing people to know if they forget about each other’s communication needs too! I would hope they are more sensitive?

    I notice that when I am one on one with a hearing person, it is fine, but when even one other hearing person joins the conversation, I start getting left out. It’s like when I’m the only “audience,” they are forced to respond to my cues, but when a second person joins, the communication loop can now be satisfactorily closed between the hearing people and they forget about my needs. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s my little theory!

    Your comment about second language english users is interesting, and I agree. I have had a lot of experience throughout my childhood (and a little as an adult) being around people temporarily living in the states who have had varying degrees of english fluency. I have found these people to be the most patient and friendly to communicate with. Perhaps they are more willing to work a bit harder at communication.

    I am not sure what to say about your experience with signing deaf, but I agree with the comment about meeting people one by one, if this is what you are interested in. If your attitude is one of appreciation and you are serious about learning the language, I think that you will be welcomed by segments of the signing deaf community, at the least. You may or may not be surprised to know that a lot of the people you might see as part of one unified signing deaf community have had their own bad experiences of rejection by certain individuals. So don’t close yourself off completely because of a bad experience. There’s lots of nice signers out there–some are even late deafened!

  24. Personality has a lot to do with it. If your personality doesn’t mesh with the others, there’s a good chance you will be left out. It happens to everybody. You can only be yourself.

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