I reckon that I have been in denial about my hearing loss for…ooh…5 years?
I mean, yes, obvs, I have hearing aids, and a free bus pass(for the moment) and closed caption subtitles for EVERYTHING I watch. I cannot completely ignore the fact that I am going deaf.
But. It takes social interaction to remind me properly and painfully that I cannot hear the way other people can hear. That my experience of the world is somewhat akin to being in the next hotel room over to a couple having the barney of a lifetime; you can tell that they are fighting, but not, annoyingly, what they are specifically fighting about.
So, from conversation in noisy environments, I can read tone and facial expression, and fake the appropriate reponse; but I catch bits and pieces of the specifics, not all. Hearing aids help only so far – I still have to focus my listening attention on everything that is being said to me, as the aids pick up all the extraneous sound around. If I have to ask for some thing to be repeated, I am only going to ask ONCE. Twice, three times, would be mortifying.
Listening constantly is exhausting. If you see me zone out, it is not boredom; I am needing a “mental break” to reset my listening faculties.
In my daily teaching experience, having my pupils repeat things to me is significantly less embarrassing. Because, after all, I am already that “weird teacher.” A legend status is useful in this job.
But, socially, in the very settings that I would have thrived in in my 20s and 30s, I find myself isolated, wary of making conversation. I want to honour friendships by my presence at important and not-so-important events, I want to LIVE outside of the walls of my classroom and home. Doing so, however, cranks my anxiety to the max. I no longer worry that people “like” me because of my personality; I worry that I frustrate them with my deafness.
And none of this addresses the underlying fear. The one made plain by the experience of my uncle, who is now profoundly deaf. The one so helpfully emblazoned on an advertising feature about hearing loss. The one that links heart disease, stroke, dementia, to hearing loss. The one that tells me that, in a short number of years, I could become a major burden for my little family.
I am no longer in denial. I am, however, tearful and terrified for the future.