So it’s been awhile. I haven’t felt the need to talk much about my hearing lately because, at 3.5 years post-implant, there’s not a lot of new things going on. I go through my days alone, spend a lot of my workdays on the phone (!), and have little issues in my daily life unless I forget to actually put my hearing devices on in the morning. But I want to address a few issues for people with hearing loss in the current pandemic that I have personally run into.
Both are super important right now – masks allow us to have face to face interaction with people outside our household. Doctors, grocery store checkers, that other runner on the trail saying hi. Zoom allows us to connect with our family and friends outside of our households when we can’t see them in person.
Both are absolutely horrible for people with hearing loss.
Masks are obvious – we can’t lipread if the person we’re talking to has their mouth covered. This has been a problem for me for years in medical situations. I routinely ask my dental hygienist and infusion nurses to not use them unless absolutely necessary (like, my infusion nurse when accessing my port – kind of important there). There’s supposedly a movement to have masks with clear plastic windows in them, but I don’t see that taking off – especially when all my friends who can sew are making masks out of really fun materials. Masks also cover a lot of non-verbal communication – hearing people might not realize it, but I guarantee you that you’re reading those cues just as us deafies are. You’re probably also doing some lipreading without knowing it too.
So what can we do? Enunciate. Speak clearly. Speak a bit more slowly. I’m extremely guilty of being a fast speaker myself, so I’m trying to be very cautious when wearing my masks. If you’re wearing a mask and someone is slower than usual to respond, they’re probably just needing a little bit of extra time to process the words without the help of the visual cues. Be patient. We’re all in this together.
Now, Zoom/FaceTime/Skype/latest video-conferencing-tool-of-the-day. Those are something else. The whole idea is that you CAN see everyone’s faces and talk realtime via the glorious thing we call the Internet. They are incredible tools, and I would be lost without them. What’s so interesting to me is that I’m using them with people I wouldn’t normally interact face-to-face with – people who don’t live in my city. People I have normal daily text-based conversations with. I had a great Zoom (which is now a verb AND noun) with some fellow Debheads – and Debbie Gibson herself – last weekend. A group that would hang out in person at events, but not a group that would get together regularly, since we’re spread across the world. But different times call for different measures
So what’s the problem? Auditory fatigue. I’ve brought that up in this blog before. Listening is exhausting. It’s even more exhausting when you’re talking to a bigger group of people and people talk over each other. I spend a lot of my workday on video conferences with coworkers and customers, and in front of my computer. The last thing I want to do at the end of my workday is sit in front of my computer on another video conference. While I would love to see the faces of all my friends and have conversations like we would in person, I just don’t have the energy to do that AND my job. Add in the basic pandemic anxiety around Zoom and I’m just tired. I’m plain tired. I don’t have it in me to listen anymore.
Also: lag. I love the Internet, but lag has always been and will always be a problem. Granted, we’re not at 2400 baud anymore, but with the entire world trying to Zoom chat at the same time, it’s going to be slow
Apologies, my friends. I just can’t Zoom with you all the time. I’m limiting myself to a single social Zoom a week right now to try to keep the exhaustion at bay. But Facebook chat? Email? Letter-writing? Let’s do it!
I also can’t seem to keep up with all the “live from home” concerts that all my favorite performers are up to these days. Times may be odd right now, but those shows are what’s keeping me going right now. Let’s hear it for the performing arts!
I’ve also personally braved the “live from home” performances and dipped my toes in the “quarantine karaoke” waters. It’s fun, and is kind of something I was doing regularly anyway – posting my songs on Facebook to let my friends hear how I’m growing as a deaf singer. So here’s my latest and favorite:
If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you might remember this as the first song I did at karaoke post-implant. I think the difference in my voice and confidence is astounding, personally.