Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On Being Deaf and Dependent

I've been very busy this summer traveling here and there. It's not always a smooth road -- being deaf and hard of hearing (HOH) and dependent on other people for help. There are challenges you don't even think of.

Airport terminals and airplanes, loudspeakers and intercoms, piped-in music, restaurants and coffee shops, passengers talking, babies crying, bags a-rollin' -- all coupled with an unfamiliar environment. Its a veritable orgy of noise. And every single part of that revelry inundates my hearing devices with a garbled cacophony of mangled sound that nearly works me into a confusing state of anxiety. Turning my hearing aids off isn't an option. I need to hear what's going on.

As the spouse of an airline employee, I fly on the standby list, and I must listen for announcements of gate or departure changes amid the noise. And I must be able to hear when my name is called to pick up my boarding pass. As a standby passenger, I am not supposed to ask for special accommodations or services reserved for paying passengers. So I must fend for myself when I travel alone. It's no easy task. I worry that I'll miss my open flight and that catching another may be impossible. My husband keeps a close eye on my travel progress from his computer at work and texts me information, usually before I know myself. It alleviates a lot of the stress.

And boarding the plane doesn't mean the challenges end. After boarding, I am frequently engaged in conversation by the person seated next to me. Most of the time, I just nod and smile. The roar of the engines and the popping of my ears make listening and understanding my chatty neighbor very difficult. I've resorted to carrying my newest novel in my hands and sticking my nose in it as soon as I can to discourage conversation. Some of the time, the safety announcements are captioned videos. That's always good. But more often than not, I only hear them over the speaker, and they're not very clear. Luckily, I've flown enough that I could probably recite the safety announcements myself, but I've yet to understand what the captain says in his announcements.

On a recent trip, I think the flight attendant attentively noticed my CI processor and, without asking or drawing attention to it, made certain that she was bent towards me before asking if I'd like pretzels or cookies. I appreciated her effort. I wondered if she'd received a special training on speaking to HOHs or if I reminded her of her dear old granny. It doesn't matter. She was wonderful.

In truth, I can't really do it by myself. I'm pretty dependent on the actions and habits of other people to hear and understand what is happening around me. Like the flight attendant who took an extra minute to bend forward and speak directly to me. Maybe it was because she knew intuitively that I needed a little extra help. Because treating me with dignity and respect was important to her -- and to me.

1 comment:

  1. None of us are an island unto ourselves. Some of us are just more aware of it than others.