My Hearing Loss Annoys You Because It Isn’t “Obvious”

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PANEL 1 – Dark hazy cloud, some words in the back that are hard to read

PANEL 2 – Same as above, but you can make out a few words, with a question mark at the end.

PANEL 3 – You can see the words a little better, it says “What do you hear?”

PANEL 4 – The words are clearer now, and it says “Can you hear me?”

PANEL 5 – A young woman (who is the author), in her late tends/early twenties, looking up, with her mouth open in amazement.

CAPTION – I almost cried

PANEL 6 – AUTHOR is sitting in a doctor’s office. A young doctor is looking at her ear.

CAPTION – Hearing aids changed everything.

PANEL 7 – AUTHOR is outside, but everything beyond her immediate surroundings is a little darker.

CAPTION – I’m not completely deaf, but I can’t hear as clearly as someone with unaffected hearing.

PANEL 8 – Same scene as above, but now everything is clear and can be seen.

CAPTION – I had no idea that birds sang in the morning…

CAPTION – Or that refrigerators made noise…

CAPTION – Or how pretty crickets sounds.

CAPTION – It was amazing. It made me happy.

PANEL 9 – AUTHOR is taking off the hearing aids.

PANEL 10 & 11 – AUTHOR is looking at the hearing aids with a smile.

PANEL 12 – AUTHOR is giving the hearing aids back to the doctor, smiling.

AUTHOR – Thanks for letting me try them.

CAPTION – Unfortunately, my insurance doesn’t cover hearing aids… nor can I afford them (I live in the USA).

CAPTION – So I remain hard-of-hearing. I’m used to it so I can put together common words and try my best to read lips. But it impacts my life every day.

CAPTION – People get annoyed at me all the time because my hearing loss isn’t “obvious”.

PANEL 13 – AUTHOR is at work, in a restaurant, wearing an apron.

CAPTION – Especially at work.

PANEL 14 – AUTHOR is carrying food at work. Behind her is her manager, saying something to her. She can’t see him.

PANEL 15 – AUTHOR turns away from the manager to the side, still not noticing the manager.

PANEL 16 – Manager is annoyed, and confronts AUTHOR.

MANAGER – Oh ok, or just ignore me and walk away!

PANEL 17 – AUTHOR turns around quickly, shocked.

CAPTION – He knows I can’t hear from behind, but won’t accommodate.

PANEL 18 – AUTHOR looks defeated.

CAPTION – When people do accommodate, they tend to talk slower, not louder.

CAPTION – …and it makes me feel like they are treating me like I am not intelligent. I don’t have comprehension difficulties – I just can’t hear you.

CAPTION – Most of the time I feel like a nuisance, constantly asking people to repeat themselves.

CAPTION – It makes me feel like I’m somehow less of a human.

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I have hearing loss. I’m not completely deaf, but I can’t hear as clearly as someone with unaffected hearing. I can make out sounds, and I know when people are talking to me, but I can’t make out meanings based on auditory cues alone.

I got the chance to try hearing aids as a test once and I almost cried because I had no idea that birds sang in the morning, refrigerators made noise or how pretty crickets sounded at dusk. These are sounds that people with unaffected hearing grew up with – things they think are normal – but to me these sounds were amazing. People kind of look at me like a crazy person when I talk about the experience, but those sounds made me happy.

Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t cover hearing aids, and I can’t afford them. So I remain hard-of-hearing. No one really addresses it seriously because I am so used to putting common words and phrases together that it comes off as not a big deal. But it can be.
I ask “What?” a lot.

Unfortunately, that causes a lot of people to speak s l o w e r, rather than LOUDER and they end up talking to me like I’m stupid. Most of the time when I mishear people I feel a combination of insecure or annoyed. No one considers it an actual problem or makes any note that it really has an impact on my life, and that I am doing my best to cope. When they speak slower I feel it’s actually an insult to my intelligence. I don’t have comprehension difficulties – I just need to hear you. I usually have to stop what I’m doing to stand closer to them. Most of the time I feel like a nuisance, constantly asking “what?” or “huh?” several times before I can actually hear what’s being said, and I can see the frustration on the speakers’ faces. Sometimes I get so sick of asking “what? Huh? Repeat that?” so many times in a row I just smile and nod.

One day while I was at work, one of the lower-level managers asked me to do something, so I turned to go start doing what he had asked. He mumbled something else, which I guess was to me, because I heard him yell two seconds later, “Or just ignore me and walk away!” I later found out he went to my General Manager to complain about my “insubordination” and she condemned him by saying, “You know she’s hard of hearing, I’ve heard her tell you several times. If her back is turned she cannot hear you.”

He still doesn’t accommodate my problem.

I wish people could take me seriously when I tell them I can’t hear specific tones or low volume. Hearing loss means having to break concentration so I can look at someone and read their lips. It means having to count the seconds in my head while I do other tasks so I don’t burn food (because I can’t hear the alarms/beeps going off). It means constantly being looked at with annoyance because I can’t hear what was just repeated four times. It means answering the question, “Why don’t you just get hearing aids” with “My insurance won’t cover it because I’m not completely deaf or old” for almost every new person I meet. It means having your family yell at you for having the TV volume too loud, so you give up and just turn the subtitles on. It means complaining about a problem that “isn’t that bad” because “you could have complete and total hearing loss and not be able to hear anything”.

It’s true. I could be completely deaf. I could be older. My hearing could definitely get worse – but then I might qualify for assistance. As it is, I have to make do with making people angry and irritated for something I cannot help.

Comic illustrated by Jasmine Schuett.

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