"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive." Anaïs Nin

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's Like Playing Wheel of Fortune

I've struggled with learning to read lips as I continue to lose my hearing. However, lately, I'm finding I'm not reading lips as well either, and it's getting frustrating. Not just for me but for others. It's frustrating for people to have to keep repeating something I'm having difficulty hearing or trying to figure out. I have a vision impairment that interferes with my communication, rotary nystagmus, and if things move to fast, I miss details and nuances. 

My mother recently discovered one of my techniques. She is using it now herself as she is losing her hearing due to the aging process. She is 83. She sees the look of frustration on the faces of those she is trying to communicate with. She told me one day, "I just nod my head along with them in the conversation when they look like they want a response. They get frustrated with me when they have to keep repeating something. Most of the time they repeat the entire conversation, when it is just one word not making sense, yet that one word makes all the difference."

Another problem is sarcasm. As we lose our hearing, we lose the ability to distinguish the tone of sarcasm. Without hearing the tone, we think you are saying the opposite of what you really mean. I had friends who did this all the time. After while, you just give up trying to communicate or follow along because they are saying one thing one moment that is the total opposite of what they are saying the next minute. Very confusing.  

Back to the nodding of the head. My mother and I have found that sometimes keeping the peace and being polite is to simply appear to understand what we don't. To do otherwise causes a person to feel uncomfortable and not want to talk to us anymore, or be at a loss as to how to communicate with us.

I will often ask someone to repeat, but if I have to have them repeat the same phrase or word over and over, I give up in frustration. Then, I just politely nod my head and they will continue with the conversation where they left off.

Often people will ask me if I can hear them. Well, yes. If they're speaking loud enough, I hear something. But it's difficult to distinguish the sounds. It's difficult to have to explain this to everyone when they ask me that. It's not always a matter of hearing, it's a matter of interpreting what I see on the lips in conjunction with the few sounds I hear. Isn't that confusing? It's like playing Wheel of Fortune with every conversation I have. Ok, I've got a few letters, but look at all those blank squares. It's a constant fill in the blanks and trying to do that while following a conversation. It's difficult and exhausting.

At my son's school one day, I had asked one of the teachers her name. She answered, "Senior Pastor".  I kept asking her name each time I saw her. She continued to give me her title, not her name.  After while, I gave up and quit asking.

Half way through the school year, she sends a nice card to me. It is signed "Senora Kratzer".  Compare that to Senior Pastor and you can see how that can happen. This happens to me ...all....day.....long...

I constantly misinterpret sounds or words. I struggle through as best as I can. I've become very self-conscious  questioning what I'm hearing because I know that often what I think I am hearing or reading on the lips actually is not what is really being said. 

Did that make sense? Often what I think I am hearing or reading on the lips is actually NOT what is being said.

If you and I are talking sometime, and I answer a question oddly, chances are I didn't hear you correctly. Ask again, rephrase the question. That often makes the difference.


  1. Hence why I always told people trying to be hearing make a liar out of me (the head nodding) just to get their acceptance. (I am born deaf in a hearing world, so I did a lot of pretending growing up)

  2. I feel once you start reliance its an domino issue, it takes over all your life as you have to ask people to tell you what is going on, and your independence such as it is, has gone by the board. This prevents 85% of deaf people ever seeking proper help to follow and their over and total reliance to stay as an group. In short it is anti-access isn't it ? Is empowerment just an smoke screen really ? Outwardly we think we are empowered, to others just you are obviously and visually reliant on someone else.

  3. At this age, it's not about acceptance, but about not causing the other person to become just as aggravated and uncomfortable. It's more about politeness after all else failed. I can see how this would be for a child growing up looking for acceptance, but it's a different perspective and heart when you are older, Anonymous.

  4. MM, that certainly gives me something to think about today. I'll have to get back to you on that.

  5. I play the Wheel of Fortune game too! Fatigue is a real problem for me. I nap after work every chance I get. Do you do that too?

  6. Yes! After church, after Self Defense class at the gym, after visiting with friends, after any form of concentration with communication.

  7. It's who I am, but some people don't accept and will avoid you. They will also avoid you if you nod all the time too (from my years of experience since birth, being in mainstreamed school and all that). I don't buy that aggravation excuse, I think they really don't care to involve you or make you feel included. A true friend will learn to be patience and learn to adapt if you tell them what you need: speaking clear (I usually tell them that I am wearing hearing aid/CI so it does the shouting for me so THEY don't have to, all they need to do is speak clearer and don't mumble) , remove background noises, facing you, write, sign, or combination of those things.

  8. Anonymous, thank you for sharing your experience and suggestions.