It’s national Hearing Awareness Week 2018 and this Saturday (3 March) is World Hearing Day. In part these initiatives aim to raise awareness on the issues people with hearing loss face on a daily basis.
Josephine Murphy is a highly valued member of the Mackay Hearing team and has profound hearing loss. Josephine is passionate about raising awareness on hearing health. Josephine is keen to share her personal experiences and insights on the challenges of communicating with a hearing loss.
Hearing with my eyes
By Josephine Murphy
Hearing through one ear can have it’s challenges. I was born with Microtia (little to no outer ear) on my right side with no ear canal, and a profound hearing loss on my left side – fitted with a behind-the-ear hearing aid. Without my hearing aid, life is pretty quiet.
The difference between an able hearing person and someone who needs assistance with hearing is that a person with a hearing loss needs to concentrate to be able to distinguish each sound and word. I just recently had a speech test done aided, and it proved that I am more of a visual listener – for me that means reading peoples lips (lip reading).
Having a simple conversation in perfect listening conditions is generally a walk in the park! Perfect listening conditions means no background noise, the other person has their face towards my face (so I can see their lips), speaking clearly and steady. This type of environment is ideal, but it isn’t always the case.
Noisy environments, quiet speaking, not being able to see the speakers’ lips, group gatherings, makes it a very challenging experience with conversations. There are times I will just stop listening in group discussions to take a break because it’s such an effort to concentrate the whole time to hear every word spoken. There are times I will only pick up on bits and pieces and then try to piece together what the conversation is about.
If I am concentrating at work, driving, gardening, home duties etc and then having to listen to someone speak I would need to focus my concentration between the two. I constantly remind my husband and children that they need to have my attention before speaking to me – my brain needs to be programmed to talking mode as I say. As I can only hear out of one ear I also remind my family and friends to speak on my left side as it is my hearing side, when I sit at tables I make sure I sit on the right of everyone. When eating out, I choose a quiet spot in the dining room and I tell people about my situation so they understand, it’s all about educating and raising awareness as well. It’s alot to think about!
The concentration required to listen can be exhausting whether at home with the kids or at school, work, parties etc. My husband could never truly understand how I felt until one day he spent a couple of days with a colleague who wasn’t English fluent. He came home absolutely wrecked because he had to concentrate so much to make out the words – this is exactly how I feel after a lot of people contact. This was a great way for him to experience what it’s like for me.
I used to shy away from telling people I had a hearing loss, I didn’t want anyone to see me as different. Not explaining my situation was difficult, because I had to work harder to hear. Now I have realised that it is ‘OK’ to have a hearing loss, and I’m comfortable explaining my situation and asking people to repeat themselves. It’s also wonderful I am able to use technology – with technology, my hearing mostly is not different to able hearing people.
I explained to my children having a hearing loss is like a person having to wear glasses to read, but people have to help me to hear by remembering a few simple rules.
Have my attention, be face to face, if it’s noisy get closer, speak steady and clearly and don’t cover those lips I need to see them to help hear!
So next time you’re speaking to someone, and they don’t hear you just be mindful they could be hard of hearing – no one is perfect we are all unique in our own way.
Josephine Murphy and Jodie Miles