I was having lunch with an old friend, Alan, over Christmas when another friend, Steven,who I hadn’t seen for a long time joined us. As we talked the subject of my hearing came up. I explained to Steven how bad my hearing was, a roughly 40 % loss(though percentiles are hard to establish. Lets just say all my consonants are missing.). I told him that I have hearing aids. I said that it had destroyed my life. Alan said, in that patronising tone us deafies have to get used to, “Oh come now, that’s a little dramatic”.

Except it’s not. Not only has it destroyed relationships, self-esteem, social life, earning capability and career advancement it has also shaped me too and not particularly for the best.

I have been diagnosed with inner ear damage but a consultant on examining me 6 years ago said I more than likely had Central Audio Processing Disorder(CAPD) too and have probably had it since childhood. CAPD means the brain is a little slow at figuring out words. Unfortunately after doing some research and contacting a leader in the field I cannot get a diagnosis because of the ear damage. Great.

Having bad hearing has formed me. I have what I call a Man Brain:I can only concentrate on one thing at a time. I thought this was genetic but I realise now it is not. It is because I have to direct all my attention to hear one thing at a time that I cannot multi-task. I get very irritated when people try to talk to me when I am working. It splits my attention in an unbearable way.

Having bad hearing skews your personality, the way you perceive yourself, the way people perceive you, the way you relate to the world. It influences the type of people you hang out with and if you will be able to build a successful career.

I have only slowly realised this in recent years. For instance I have always, unintentionally given off a snooty, don’t bother me vibe. When I was a teenager I was often called a snotty bitch. I thought I was very shy, I certainly had low self-esteem, but I always looked bad-tempered too. Boys hated me. I never had a boyfriend. Looking back now I realise I probably did have CAPD and interacting even then was fraught and frowning to hear was a part of my make up.

In school, I spent my time staring out the window. I was smart but uninterested. Maybe I was just bored of course, and I still don’t think the school system suited me but it also is likely I had only so much hearing energy available. This of course impacted on my career options. I still wouldn’t have understood maths mind!

I always only had one friend at a time, I couldn’t handle groups. Still can’t. To grease the wheels of a social life through my 20s I drank, as many did I suppose. It worked to an extent and I made a lot of friends but I still often found myself isolated and bored even within a group and I couldn’t understand why.(I’ll cover friends in PART TWO )

Depression was constant. I didn’t understand then how much effort it was taking for me to maintain attention. Often I would drift off into reverie. Looking back, drink was the only way I could get some social contact while not having to deal with not understanding everything.

There’s nothing I can do about my ear damage though I did finally get (expensive)hearing aids last year-a decade later than I should have. They have not made the difference everyone expected, again probably because of the CAPD being a factor. I can just hear jumbled noises louder.

There’s not too much I can do about CAPD either although there are some audio programs directed at children to help re-educate the brain to hear. I  emailed a crowd in Cork about doing a course (€500 + more money) and they told me to phone them to talk about it, a staggering thing to hear from someone in the hearing business but sadly at this stage not surprising for me.

People who understand the breadth of the impact of hearing loss are few and far between. In fact bad hearing and its impact seems to be very poorly understood by just about everyone. Even sufferers don’t notice they can’t hear so well any more they just withdraw, as I did.

To complicate matters deaf peoples hearing often fluctuates.

I can hear some people better than others, in some places better than others. I can hear one person better than two, men better than women(but not always), slow talkers better than fast talkers. I can hear better when I am not tired and when I don’t have any mucus build up.

I can even hear better outside of Ireland. Another deafie I know who lives in the UK really struggles when he comes to Ireland as the Irish talk so fast. This is a big problem with CAPD as the brain has no chance to catch up. In the long run I will be better off to leave again.

All this only gives rise to the suspicion that the deaf person is making it all up and so not only are you isolated from society, half of the buggers won’t even take you seriously.

As a hard of hearing person I know first hand that its more common to be made fun of, misunderstood, ignored, passed over, accused of making your disability up and even to be on the receiving end of impatience and anger and that is aside from all the practical and social problems you encounter.

You probably couldn’t imagine rolling your eyes or laughing at someone in wheelchair because they can’t walk but we deafies get abuse daily. Imagine getting impatient with your wheelchair-bound friend for not being able to run?Imagine accusing him of pretending?

If you are hard of hearing this will happen to you all the time and it will come from every direction even from those who say they care about you and there is nothing to do but grit your teeth and take it. If being deaf isn’t enough to isolate you, the contempt of friends and family can be.




  1. I believe what you are saying as my wife is on her second pair of expensive hearing aids. Like you she is better with one on one. In large groups she doesn’t hear good at all. If I’am in one room and her in another room at home forget it.


    • Oh yes! When friends come to visit me they sit down and keep talking while I am in the kitchen getting tea. It takes a while to get tea in my house!Its a terrible affliction but it is also hard on those around as well. I know, because my mother has been hard of hearing since she was my age, but she didnt tell anyone and we were all terribly impatient with her. I confess even with my own problem now, I still have to make an effort not to be. It is very frustrating for those trying to be understood too. I have another 4 parts of this post to come, just to get it out of my system! 🙂 Thanks for reading Dennis.


  2. I hate being told I’m being dramatic. I really do. Anyhow, I wanted to say that the frustration of not hearing – while everyone assumes you do – must be acute. Of course it separates you – with the best will in the world from speaker and listeners alike it must be really hard to live in a world where you have to focus, hard, all the time. I don’t have a hearing problem – or at least my ears work as well as they should – but eventually, in college, went to have my ears tested, twice. I didn’t believe the first guy, who said my hearing was very good. I was forever asking people to repeat themselves, especially in group situations. The second guy told me I was a “lazy listener” (helpful term, that). Basically I’d learned to lip read so unless I was looking straight at a person when they spoke I missed a lot of what they said. Coupled with this was another issue – if there are two conversations happening in a room I find it incredibly hard to hear the one aimed at me. I need to use all my superpowers (which are few) to filter out the other noise. In restaurants, pubs, etc there’ll be a plethora of talk and loud music. Nightmare, as you know. Anyway – I didn’t mean to go on a rant, but rather just to say I get it. It’s really hard. Fair play to you for saying it.


    • Wow thats sounds familiar. It sounds like an audio processing problem(hitherto called lazy listening of course 🙂 ) which has to be quite common. These disorders seem only to have been discovered in recent years but they must have always been around so it annoys me that all the software directed at trying to correct them is aimed at kids. Must be tons of adults with that problem. Yes its a total pain and worse because there is just no way out and for the most part it is just going to be more restful being alone. I need to find a nice mute man! Feels good to write it out, have been meaning to for a while. Got all five posts written overnight on Monday. I’m on a rant roll!


  3. It took a year after we have met for me to learn that you have a hearing difficulty – from you. I would never have noticed. Does that mean that you hear me, in sense of hear and in sense of hear:) only to well? Your focus on one thing at the time is wonderful for recipients of your attention, selfish me wants to let you know x


    • Hello my dear, long time no hear:) I’ll be setting up Skype soon, I just got a camera. When I met you in Croatia it was the first time in a long long time it was easy for me to hear. I decided that it was because people who don’t speak english as a first language are very careful and clear about what they say. Also we were in a place where there were a few nationalities so everyone had to make an effort to be understood, to choose their words with care and it was BLISS for me!In Ireland everyone talks so FAST its a nightmare. My brain takes so long to understand words. As for paying attention, yes it is good I think and for me too. It has caused me to make good friends. If I had good hearing I think I would have been quite a self centred person(OK I still am 🙂 but my ears force me to pay attention properly to others so that is good. Just writing this I think though I feel disconnected a lot maybe I am more connected than I would have been with good ears. Who knows? Good to know you are there. I hope you are well. Be in touch


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