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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Talking to people with hearing loss

So on Sunday I instructed my RT Cave Facebook Page followers to read the transcripts from the August 30, 2015, Rush Limbaugh show where Rush explains how it felt to go deaf. Trust me, folks, this has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with how to deal with deaf people or people with hearing loss, people we deal with on a daily basis and still have to communicate with.  

Basically, what I wanted people to read was the following.
I was playing golf one day, and I ran into a guy I didn't even know. It was up at Jupiter Hills and I ran into a guy. I was coming off the practice range. The guy came up to me and said, "You know, I really admire what you're doing."

I had no idea what he was talking about. I said, "Why?"

"I don't know how you're still working. You're deaf, for crying out loud! You're deaf!"
I said, "Well, implants, this, that," explained to him.

He said -- and I've never forgotten this. He said, "Hearing loss, deafness is the only disability where the victim is blamed. Have you found that?"

I said, "What do you mean?"

"Do people get mad at you for not being able to hear them?"
I laughed. "All the time."
He said, "That's what I mean. You're the one that can't hear; they get mad at you. Because they can't relate to not being able to hear. And when they're around you and you're wearing your implant, you can hear them, so they think you can hear them all the time. They do not get it. They just don't," and he was right. He was dead-on right. And the way it manifests itself is... Well, let's say I'm on the golf course. I'm on the driver's side. Let's say before I got the implant on my right ear, so I can only hear out of my left.
I can't tell you how many times I have witnessed nurses or doctors get irritated with a person who can't hear because they can't hear.  Heck, I know that I have myself gotten annoyed from time to time. And this is what Rush is describing: the frustration of the deaf person because they are treated as the victim when the real victim is not them but you.  You are the victim because you don't know what it's like to be deaf, and you don't know how to communicate with deaf people.

The reminds me of when I was 15 and had a friend named Julie who was deaf.  She kept telling me over and over not to shout.  To me it made sense to shout what I said, thinking she'd be able to hear me better with the hearing aide and all.  But she would get irritated with me and tell me just to talk normal.  The reason she said this was because she was trying to read my lips and when I talked loud she couldn't read my lips.

I'll be honest with you: she corrected me a lot.  I remember many times she would touch the side of my head and aim it so that I was looking at her.  She would look annoyed or irritated, she would just just calmly give some kind of hint, or touch, indicating that I needed to look at her and talk normal.  She knew that I didn't know.  She had experienced this many times, and simply decided, at some point, that if a person is not deaf this is how they acted, and this is what needed to be done.

She was trying to help me understand what it was like to be deaf.  Then I would talk normal for a while, concentrating on making sure she was looking at me when I talked.  But then I would forget, and the next time we were having a conversation I would find myself shouting again.

I can't tell you how many times I have had to remind myself not to shout in a patient's room.  I can picture Julie as she constantly reminded me not to shout, that there was no need for me to shout.  But I still have to stop myself.  I can't tell you how many times I've told nurses or doctors not to shout.  But they just look at me annoyed.

Rush continued.
I'm on the driver's side (of a golf cart). My good buddy, whoever it is sitting on my right talking to me in a normal tone of voice as we're motoring along and the golf clubs are rattling and making noise and the wind is going through the microphone. I can't understand a single word. Two years later, same circumstance. The guy still doesn't speak up, doesn't aim for my left ear, just keeps talking. It's just... I don't know how to explain it.

As I say, it's been fascinating to study it and try to understand it, and I don't complain about it. You know, I just I'll stop the cart and I'll turn my head and get three inches from them and say, "Could you say that again," and it'll happen after I do that. Five minutes later they'll try to talk to me with all the racket again, and I'll stop the cart, and I'll turn my head and get three inches. They don't learn. And that has been the fascinating thing about it.

And this is not a criticism. It's human nature. It's just the way... I think it's all rooted in the fact that people simply can't relate to it, even people I've explained it to in great detail -- and I can't explain the acoustics.
You see, we don't know what it is like to be deaf, so we don't learn how to talk to deaf people even when they tell us.  We don't learn to get their attention and to make sure they know we are talking to them. We do not learn to be patient with them.  If we gain their attention, if they see us talk, they can, if they have hearing aides or know how to read lips, hear us.

But we forget.  We should not forget, but we do.  It's human nature.

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