Friday, August 16, 2013

If You're Not Deaf Yet, Start Listening

Last month, I saw my grandpa for the first time in a while. I began to worry he was going deaf. I'd say a sentence and he'd ask me to repeat it. Sure, I talk fast, but I'm usually not that hard to understand.
Then we had a conversation about religion. My grandpa is an atheist (he brought up the topic). Suddenly, I had to repeat everything two or three times. My words changed as I had time to think. I found gentler answers to make my point. Answers that wouldn't offend him. Answers he liked better.
Wait a minute.
He was deaf. When it suited him.
My Grandma Penny actually is going deaf. We had a fun conversation on Memorial Day.
Mom: "Eliza and I just got back from the cemetery."
Grandma: "She's a secretary?"
My grandparents are in their seventies. It's only natural for them to have difficulty hearing. But now my parents are having trouble and they're in their forties. I'm worried. Are they losing their hearing already?
My mom says she's in the early stages of Alzheimer's, and that's why she keeps saying, "Call what's her name for me" or  "Go get the thingy out of the room".
Wait, no. She's done that since I was little.
Recently, I've started to wonder if my parents' hearing works like my grandpa's. Our communication gap has less to do with them being forty six than me being a teenager. If I don't have a contrary opinion they can hear me just fine.
Lakyn, my friend for several years, has 10% hearing in one ear. About once a month, she'd turn her good ear towards me and ask for a repeat. About just as often, I'd realize she missed something I said and repeat it for her. To my knowledge, she's never used a hearing aid. She takes notes in class like everyone else. When we sit down she'll make sure her "normal" ear is facing me. She can hear whatever she wants to.
I am hard to understand. I talk fast. But Lakyn knew me long enough to get used to it. My parents have known me longer. They knew me when I had to do speech therapy for my r's. They knew me when I thought determined was pronounced "detter-mind."
Shouldn't they understand me now better than ever?
I see other adults pull this trick on teenagers all the time. There are people who really struggle with hearing loss. They've learned to deal with it. It's an insult to them to play it to your own  advantage. It's like faking a limp so someone will help carry your groceries. Even if they're younger and stronger, or if you are a little tired at the moment, that's no excuse.
Adults: If you want something, or if you don't like what we have to say, come right out and say it.
Youth: If you know for sure that someone's giving you this kind of crap, don't put up with it. Say what you have to say.
They may not be listening but they just might hear you.

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I talk fast too! All too often people stare at me with blank expressions and I realize they didn't understand a word I just said. That's why writing is awesome. I have someone kind of like your grandfather in my family. With the deafness, that is. Someone else is with the atheism. (Well, he's not an atheist, but he's the kind of person who thinks God is some distant being who is present in any kind of religion as long as you're a good person, and that church and prayers are not necessary as long as you have love in your heart.) Great post, I really enjoyed it.