Friendships can be difficult for the hard of hearing and choosing friends has more to do with practical considerations(like, can you actually hear them?)than whether you like them or not.
Many of my older friends are loud people out of sheer necessity. I was drawn to them long before I realised my ears were a problem. Unfortunately as loud people are usually garrulous this means I don’t get to talk as much as I’d like-which is easier for me than listening. You can’t win.
These days some friends are loud just for me and I am thankful for that. It takes a certain type of person to speak loudly.
Some people would sacrifice a friend rather than do it. I just cannot be friends with quiet people or people who mumble. I can’t hear higher pitches so I can’t have a good a bond with my nieces and nephews and I don’t visit as much as I should. Sometimes their parents put them on the phone anyway and it’s painful and disastrous. (I cover the phone in PART THREE )
Ironically, as a friend I am valued because I am a “good listener” which is frustrating as listening is so hard. I have to direct every single one of my senses at whoever is talking. I often ask questions too, to clarify that I have heard the correct information. It all takes a huge amount of effort-I cannot tell you how much- and sadly that effort is seen as an invitation by some people to take up all the talk time which is a load of pants. Its relaxing for me to do all the talking 🙂
Alan, who accused me of being dramatic about my hearing in PART ONE is one of the few people I can hear with relative ease. When I commented on it once he shouted “That’s because I bellow at you!” Steven from the same conversation was very hard to hear and yet he also confessed to a hearing problem, which I ascertained, of course, after a number of questions.
I have whole relationships and acquaintance-ships where I have heard hardly a word of what the other person has said. Ever. I do it all by garnering information from others and also by copying expressions. Its amazing what you can do with your face(as the actress said to the bishop.)
The people who do make an effort though are pure gold. One time I was in a cafe with a new friend Julie and a group of people. The acoustics were bad there and I could not hear anyone very well. I set my face in my habitual half rictus hoping to be able to gauge facial expressions to copy them when Julie stopped someone who was talking and said “Clare can’t hear you.” She then turned to me and explained in a unpatronising manner what was being said.
I cannot describe the relief I felt at having an ally. It was quite unexpected and extraordinary. I thought I would cry. I sometimes fantasize about what it would be like to have a companion like that and I think it would be nice. It would make my life so much easier.
Another new friend, Annie, witnessed me having a “conversation” with a fast talking member of the bar staff in Geoffs(Hi Willie!) once. When I had finished she said,” You’re very good aren’t you?” “At what,” I asked. “You didn’t hear a word he said but you were able to gauge from his facial expression how to react.”
Just knowing that someone could see this, understood it was real, made me want to cry with relief and give Annie all my money. Not much I know but its the thought!
My friend Ciara also is great. One day I visited her for tea. I had forgotten to tell her I had new hearing aids. She was making tea and said something as she turned away and immediately turned back to apologise but then realised I had heard. I hadn’t noticed at thing but she was blown away and delighted for me. It was only then I realised how much effort she was making for me.
For all the friends who make the sterling effort there are those who can’t or just do not understand that it’s necessary. A lot people say “Oh I have a hearing loss too!” as if it’s a competition and continue on at the same mumbling pitch and tone as if some how my sharing of my deafness has made my deafness disappear.
One guy I know who talks nineteen to the dozen keeps asking me for coffee. “That would mean you have to slow down, I can’t hear you.” “Oh I don’t mind!” he says and chatters on. But I MIND, I can’t stop Brain trying to process what someone is saying to me and so Brain ends up at the end of its tether. It’s good Brain doesn’t have a gun but it is able to bang my head off a wall.
My friend George who is in his 60s is hard of hearing and so talks in a very low voice for fear of shouting. I visit him occasionally but even in his house, in the quiet, it’s a huge effort to hear. Once we went to Kilkenny for the day but I had to cut the trip short as I hit a wall and became suddenly exhausted. Trying to hear all the time drains me. I don’t see George much these days and it makes me sad.
Still, I am glad to have friends and I do understand that dealing with a hard of hearing person is difficult. I was at a table quiz with my friend Laura recently, a nightmare scenario. Though I had my hearing aids, in a noisy place I hear everything and poor Brain gets confused.
We were on a team with two strangers. I could not hear a thing. I could not gel with our team mates so I relied on Laura to do that. Through the night I often asked Laura what was going on and she wrote things down on our score card for me. I even got to answer a few questions. We actually won in the end. It was very tiring for me but afterwards Laura said she that if she hadn’t have known she wouldn’t have believed that I couldn’t hear.
I am lucky to have friends. I long thought I was built to be alone but I have realised late in life that I am a regular person and I actually like to socialise, I need to socialise, but being with people is often synonymous with exhaustion and sometimes just not worth the effort. But sometimes I am going to have to make the effort.