Life and Hearing Loss – part 5

. . advocating for others even when they won't advocate for themselves

Picture:  Portable peaker

What I have come to realize is that people who lose their hearing later in life are reluctant to advocate for themselves. Is it because we suffer the indignity of so many wanings in late middle age? We're losing our hair - or it's going gray/white. Our vision isn't what it was. Our cholesterol is up; our blood pressure is up. Now our hearing is going, too? It's one indignity too much.

But of all the aging related conditions, hearing loss is the one with the most social repercussions. Oh, sure, some kid may see your balding head and say, "Ok, boomer." Or, "geezer", as my son used to say (he's getting there himself these days.) But that's the least of the problems for an older person with a hearing loss.

One of the things I mentioned in my letter (Life and Hearing Loss - Part 4),

This affects the kind of events that I can successfully attend, not to mention those in which I can actively participate. An intellectual life consists of more than reading books. Lectures and opportunities to discuss ideas with others are necessary for growth. When your contact with the creative and intellectual is limited by your ability to hear and participate, the quality of life diminishes.

Older people with a hearing loss risk cutting themselves off from life if they don't speak up for themselves.

Let me give you an example:

When I was on the Bethsaida Team, my church was hosting a special bible study with a priest in the Diocese who was a booster of the Bethsaida Team. We had a portable speaker system that we could use in the parish hall and I had that set up for the five-session study group. When the priest came the first day, I showed her the speaker system. It had two mikes - one wired and one wireless.

I requested that she use the wired mike and we use the wireless one to pass around to the attendees when they spoke so that everyone would be able to hear (as far as I knew, I was the only hearing impaired attendee).  I had assumed that as a priest openly supporting the work of the Bethsaida Team, that she wouldn't mind, but I could see that she was livid. But she couldn't very well say anything without losing her cred. So the study proceeded with the sound system in place.

Not that it was well-accepted. At least once a session, as the wireless mike was passed around, someone would say, quite pugnaciously, "Do we really have to do this?" Yes, I answered, we do. I am hearing impaired and I want to hear the lectures, but I also want to hear what you have to say, too.

I prevailed for all five sessions.

At the end of the fifth session, what do you think happened?

post-workshop conversation

post-workshop conversation

Four people approached. "Oh, we're so glad you insisted on the microphones", one said, the others saying"yes", or nodding.

Why didn't you speak up? I asked. They all looked horrified: *what me speak up?* (unspoken).

"Don't you realize that they were angry because they thought they were doing this for one person? If you had spoken up, they would have realized that there was a real need. The five of us make up 25% of the class."

They sort of wishy-washy mewed. I left them to pack up the equipment and put it away.

All in all, I felt agrieved as well. It shouldn't have to be that hard to accomplish accessibility for the hearing impaired. The hearing impaired should have enough self- interest to advocate for themselves or at least support those who advocate for them.

But I've been at this a long time, and I've learned that our insecurities are the hardest thing to overcome. So I keep on advocating, even when it falls on "deaf" ears.

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