How socially isolating is hearing loss?

Hello!

Sometimes people will refuse to wear any hearing aids and will deny that they need them. It is true. They don’t need them, but it can have a pretty dramatic impact on their quality of life. Do you know what is one of the things that they can help with the most? Their social life.

“blindness cuts us off from things, but deafness cuts us off from people.” -Helen Keller

Helen Keller believed that deafness was a “much worse misfortune”. The reason being that most languages are spoken. I remember hearing about a family who had a deaf daughter. A few of the immediate family members could sign, but every so often they would invite extended family to dinner, none of who would know how to sign. At first one of the siblings would try to include the deaf girl, but with a bunch of people, the conversation bouncing around from person to person, and with multiple conversations going on, it was hard for the sibling to sign everything, so they would eventually give up, leaving the deaf girl out of the conversation completely. So the girl eventually just started going to her room after she was finished with her dinner, because it was pretty much impossible for her to follow what was going on. So she missed out on a lot of chances to socialize and communicate with her family, because of this.

Now I am not deaf, but I go to restaurants every so often with a big group of my friends and hearing aids are terrible for those type of situations. People usually go to restaurants specifically to socialize, yet I am there struggling to catch any of the conversations, which does feel very isolating. I feel myself start to shut down after awhile, because the energy I have to use to follow along is incredibly draining. If I didn’t have any hearing aids, I would shut down almost immediately. Every so often I end up in situations where I am without my hearing aids and people are talking to each other. Every time I shut down from the beginning, because it makes me feel like a burden having to get people repeat things a bunch of times and then them eventually saying “never mind” or “It isn’t anything important”. The thing is it is incredibly important to me, because I value what others have to say. I want others to know that I want to listen to them, but at the same time I know it can be frustrating to others. If it is that frustrating to repeat yourself, can you imagine how frustrating it is to be the person who is embarrassing themselves and can’t understand what someone is saying after multiple attempts?

I understand that being blind has its own problems that would seem impossible fr me to overcome, but I don’t think that people often realize just how it can feel to be excluded from a lot of conversations. Being deaf can be similar to living in a foreign country that speaks a language that you can’t speak. Ever. On the plus side, at least deaf people can learn to read English, which definitely helps. I’m not going to pretend that I understand how isolating being completely deaf can be, but being hard of hearing, I do get a little taste of what it is like. This is one reason why deaf communities are important. So that deaf people can experience fluid communication and language with people similar to them.

Thanks for reading!