I had an appointment for my annual eye exam this week. You wouldn’t think that a visit to an eye doctor has anything to do with hearing, but when a person with hearing loss interacts with the hearing world issues surface.
I’ve been going to the same ophthalmologist for quite some time now. There are many things I like about her practice. Her office is a quick ten-minute drive from my home. She and her staff focus on personalized care. I never spend more than five or ten minutes in her waiting room. Her staff is friendly, efficient, and well-trained. My doctor has seen me through cataract surgery and took very good care of me when a few unusual problems arose. I’ve always thought of her and the women who work there as an A team.
Yet no one is perfect. The one fault I find with my doctor and her employees is that they keep forgetting I have trouble hearing. Perhaps it’s because they focus on my eyes instead of my ears. Perhaps they simply forget to read the note that I asked them to put into my chart.
My visit this week did not go off without a hitch. When I arrived, the receptionist, who has a deep distinctive voice for a woman, was ready with my paperwork and got me through an insurance snafu quickly and efficiently. I had no problems hearing her. On the other hand, the woman doing my eye exam spoke in a soft whisper. When I reminded her about my hearing issues she said, “I should have remembered. But you look so normal.”
And therein lies the problems most of us with hearing loss face. We don’t need crutches, walkers, or canes unless there is something else wrong with us. Our hearing loss is invisible and only surfaces when we struggle to hear. Unless someone knows you or sees your hearing aid or cochlear implants they have no idea that you can’t hear unless you tell them. Asking someone to repeat doesn’t clue anyone in, as normal hearing people might make the same request.
So how do people with hearing loss make the invisible visible? The only thing I’ve ever come up with is to be forthright and tell people they need to speak up and face you when speaking with you, even if you must remind them a dozen times. We are customers, consumers, and patients. We are family members and friends. We have the right to hear. But to practice our right, we need to be vocal. This requires us to be unashamed of our hearing loss and not too timid to remind others about our hearing loss.
I’m reading a wonderful book called the 12 Rules for Life by Jordon B. Peterson. In his second rule, Dr. Peterson makes the point that most patients are non-compliant about taking prescription medications or other doctor’s orders because they don’t care about themselves. The author relates statistics showing that patients care for their pets better than they care for themselves. He offers his rule number two: treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.
I agree with him. We, who suffer from hearing loss, must take care of ourselves because, ultimately, we are in-charge of our well-being. The next time you find yourself frustrated because it’s the tenth time you’ve told someone to speak louder remember that your reminders are the only one-way people are going to realize that you need help hearing. We are the commander-in-chief of ourselves and our hearing loss. We all need to speak up so we that our right to hear will be honored.
Join HLAA-Florida and our Florida Chapters today in our Let’s Make Hearing Loss Visible Campaign.