Friday, October 26, 2012

Listening is exhausting.

I spend a lot of my time on Twitter these days. (@ronniecat) I follow local and national reporters, local people, businesses and institutions. And I follow a lot of deaf or hard-of-hearing (HoH) people.

I got a fair amount of reaction from hearing people when I retweeted (that means someone else I follow tweeted it, and I "forwarded" it) this article, titled "Listening is exhausting."

My deaf and HoH contacts on twitter tweeted, and retweeted, and retweeted this article. It was as if - no, it was that someone had exactly articulated something we all knew, but all thought we were alone in.

Hearing, for most people, is an entirely passive thing. You just hear. For the hearing-impaired, whether working with hearing aids or CI processors, hearing is an active thing. You are actively working mentally to understand everything that is going on. Depending on your situation, or your employment, this can mean up to 10 or more hours a day working, mentally. It is, as the article title says and the testimonials agree, exhausting. I really empathized with the student in the video who said that on Saturdays, he just crashed. Done in.

(This is why closed-captions are such a very, very big deal to HoH people. They transform active listening into passive listening. With them, watching a movie or tv show is recreational and pleasurable. Without them, it's more active listening, and inevitably a bit of a chore.)

And the woman in the video who says "If I miss a cue, and they start laughing, and I don't start laughing..." Oh, god, where to start at how awful that is? I usually laugh too, feeling like a goddamned idiot.

The article and video - coupled with a recent business trip to Ottawa - made me think about a lot of things. My work frequently takes me to meetings with my colleagues across the country. These are usually 2-day meetings and on the evening of the first day they always schedule a dinner at a local restaurant somewhere. This is an opportunity to socialize and get to know each other as people, not just bureaucrats. I used to love these group dinners. Now, I don't understand a word that is said at them. Recently I've stopped attending them because they usually end up in me saying nothing (am I hostile?) or else the poor people on the left and right of me try to make conversation and I either repeatedly ask them to repeat themselves, or I just pretend I understand what they're saying (at my great peril). It just makes them feel awkward and embarrasses them. So I beg off those dinners and just try to be incredibly pleasant at coffee breaks during the meetings so I don't seem hostile and weird. Any "bilateral negotiations" (discreet one-on-one conversations with my peers in other provinces or territories) all must take place during those breaks too.

And that made me think of another thing. I used to be funny. I certainly was never the life of the party - too introverted for that - but I was always able at group gatherings of friends or co-workers to come up with the well-timed quip that would leave the table in stitches. (I'm not bragging. I'm from Newfoundland. It's genetic.) That doesn't happen anymore, in gatherings big or small.You can't come up with a pithy comment if you're still trying to process two comments back. It's an aspect of my personality that is just - gone.

So that's what you lose, in the end. A bit of you. It's exhausting.


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Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

Thank you so very much for posting this. If you don't mind, I'd like to pass it along to my college's department that coordinates disability services for students. It's something that should be emphasized to all who have HoH students in their classes. Or just "all," really.

12:57 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Sherwood - believe me, *nothing* would make me happier. Thank you!

8:13 p.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

Exhausting is indeed the word. Know what they told me at the audiology clinic after i had my first hearing test? "Get extra sleep. Hearing loss is very tiring." (Mad, hysterical laughter...EXTRA sleep? with four kids under six??) And that's just the physical effect. it's also, as you say so poignantly re your sense of humor, soul-destroying. I find myself listening so hard that i forget to talk. Even people who like me have to prompt me to SAY SOMETHING when we're out for lunch. it's been so long since i could just babble along while walking down the street that I've forgotten how to do it--or that people do this sort of thing. You feel you're no longer funny, I feel I'm no longer pleasant or outgoing. Forgot how.

10:43 p.m.  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

p.s. the four kids under six are now under 50! haha. still lookin' for those naps!!

10:46 p.m.  
Blogger Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

I've known since I've been reading your blog that, wonderful as a CI is, you don't just pop it in and get back the whole hearing experience you lost, but this really brings it home. I hadn't really realized that it could be different for a naturally outgoing person, as opposed to an introvert.

7:01 p.m.  
Blogger ronnie said...

Just want to say thank you all for your comments. The information at the link seemed to make so many people really "get it". I am more than happy to be the messenger :)

9:51 p.m.  

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