Having had no experience of deafness, most people have no idea what the experience is like. As one person told me, “deafness is not very well understood by the general public and is a very isolating issue to have. To be socially involved takes so much more effort and can be very tiring and frustrating.”
Why is this the case? We take our senses for granted and it’s only when we lose one that we realise how important it was. Luckily the majority people have all their senses and they never have to experience the loss. “It is so important to have some sort of social/moral support from other hearing impaired people who understand what it is like,” my friend continued.
It is because of the need for understanding that the Deaf Community came about but for people who have had hearing and go deaf later in life, even this community doesn’t give them the understanding they need. This is the reason for groups such as Better Hearing Australia – a group of people who were not deaf from an early age but have become hard of hearing in later life. They struggle to cope in their normal world and from this group get understanding, support and help.
In a noisy environment even if in a group, a deaf person can still be alone. Hearing aids (and to some degree Cochlear Implant processors) don’t perform well in noise. While technology has improved a microphone cannot discriminate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ noise. As noise levels increase our ability to hear decreases, we struggle to keep up and get so tired. Eventually we sit silent while conversation carries on around us missing out on the social interaction.
Recently my husband and I went out with his brothers and their wives to a local, well respected Chinese restaurant. The tables were close together and a sister-in-law because I can adjust the sensitivity and volumes on my Cochlear Implant processor and screen out a lot of the noise. But my she has only recently started wearing hearing aids and regularly during the evening she adjusted her aids to try and hear better. She commented to me “now that I’ve got hearing aids, I understand better how difficult it has been for you over the years.” It is a shame she has had to learn what hearing loss is the hard way – but it is nice to have someone in our social group who is now ‘on my side’.