In groups and at work it’s tough too. As I said a lot of my conversations are punctuated by people rolling their eyes at my slowness or laughing incredulously when I guess wrong. This does not foster self-esteem or equal relationships. I have learned to laugh too but I shy away from groups.
This inability to deal with groups has a deeper impact beyond a damaged ego from being laughed at, though in truth, that hurts like hell too.
Before I realised what a problem my hearing was I went on an expedition to Africa. The preparation involved a lot of group meetings where up to 50 people sat around in circle. It was a place where everyone was able to get to show who they were except me. I often couldn’t hear what was happening and even when I got the gist I was afraid to make any points for fear of repeating what had been covered and so I came across as quiet and uninterested or possibly stupid I suppose. (I often feel really stupid. )Certainly I didn’t come across like the person I am.
Once I was in Africa and out on site much of the conversation and bonding was carried on around the camp fire. I never knew I was lip-reading so much until I tried to hear people in the dark. I couldn’t and because I didn’t really understand the extent of my problem and how to deal with it I usually absented myself getting a reputation for snootiness and coldness.
The trip to Africa lasted three months and it was unsuccessful on a social level. I did make a couple of friends but on the whole people disliked me and it caused me a huge amount of damage. I plunged into a deep depression after it.
I always only had one friend at a time when I was growing up, I was never part of a gang and I have remained something of a loner, something I thought was a part of my make up until I learned more about hearing loss. Now I am seeing the sociable me, an atrophied being huddled in the dark corner of my soul, a being who I tried my best to release by drinking- which works quite well in the short-term! When you’re drunk you can shout everyone down and grab all the talking time 🙂 I am not particularly condoning it but a hard of hearing person does not have a lot of options.
Lack of hearing forms your personality, or more to the point de-forms it. If I had good hearing I would have long over come my childhood shyness and been able to hold my own in a group but I cannot. I cannot flourish in a group, express myself or interact. It makes me tired and fractious and unlikable. When you think about it functioning in a group is what being human is about.
In ways it would be easier if I was profoundly deaf and I could just join the deaf community, though learning sign language would be an entire pain in the ass and all the hearing people I have met who learn it are terrible bores who I imagine are just looking for a whole new audience having exhausted the hearing community… 😉
As a point of interest, the deaf community is the only group of disabled people to show no desire to integrate with the… undisabled?abled? When you consider the piss-taking the hard of hearing are subjected to by the ably-eared this is completely understandable.
In the career sphere,I see myself primarily as an artist. I don’t earn much, if anything, doing it but I don’t think that has anything to do with my hearing. I do think the reason I paint is because the visual world is vital to me for communication. Visual clues are what help me tune in.
For money, I work part-time in a factory in an area where the noise level is over 80 decibels so my hearing aids are actually a liability. I did not start off in such a loud area, I have only been moved there in the last two years.
Socialising is a huge part of work , there is a lot of chatting. I can just about manage a conversation with one other person but when some else joins in I am lost(my brain finds two and more people hard to keep up with in any case) and so I sit there with a stupid look on my face getting laughed at if I try to join in or deemed a bit stupid or rude.
Most jobs in my factory require a lot of communication between areas by phone so it is out of the question for me to try to rise above the level of operator and get to a quieter area. As it is I have to ask other people to make calls for me.
I dread going into my job these days as they put me in larger group for a while and I sort of shut down. I am back in a smaller group now and they are good but I have asked to be moved to a job I can do alone and I am top of the list for the next one to come up but they are few and far between. For now, I truly would rather spend 24 hours a week shovelling shit in a room on my own.
As for other options they are limited certainly. When I went into the hearing consultant 6 years ago I was wearing my torn, painting jeans. I also told him I was working in a factory. He pointed out to me that I had not become as financially successful as my intelligence would suggest I could because of my hearing. I felt it was a terrible thing for him to say uninvited and not just because he was dissing factory workers. I just wanted my bloody ears checked.
I felt abused by him to be honest because you just don’t expect such comments in a professional setting and I wasn’t able to respond properly. I was shaken and depressed for a long time afterwards but he was also actually right in some ways. I don’t have that many options. I never had. (Then of course bloody Helen Keller pops into my head. That woman took away all my excuses.. 🙂 )
When I think of work elsewhere I wonder where I could actually fit in. Not anywhere that relies on talking and phones that’s for sure and that’s nearly everywhere. At least retail is out, thank the Gods! (I worked in a shop once and I am amazed I didn’t drag someone in over the counter and murder them. Customers are RUDE. That’s a whole other set of posts…)
Even when I have considered escaping to travel I am hampered by the fact that I would find it hard to teach English as a foreign language or work in a restaurant or an orphanage. Then again, it might not be as big a problem as it is in Ireland because, as I have said before, the Irish are the hardest to understand as they speak so fast. There are myriad other hazards for the hearing impaired in PART FIVE
I am not sure what the future holds work-wise and of course there are no jobs out there for anyone right now. I would like to leave the factory, the noise and feeling stupid all the time is getting to me, and I would really like to work somewhere where I could hear people and at something that engages my talents.
But I am not the only person in a job they hate and I am lucky to have as much time off as I do. I am also lucky to have good work mates, though I complain about them laughing at me, not all of them do and those that do don’t mean bad. Our job is busy and loud and tiring there is often no way and no time to deal with my hearing problem.
I know it is not just that I am hard of hearing that is preventing me finding my niche and that there are plenty out there suffering through the recession. In the end I am blessed to not only have a job but to have a good employer and that will do for the time being but I will be keeping my ear to the ground and hope I hear something rather than just getting trampled in the process.