Holidays with the (my) hard-of-hearing family can be a challenge. With each additional person in the house, the difficulty of communicating doubles. Even with just me, my father, and my stepmother, that’s three hard-of-hearing people. Add to that other people who want to utter words and sounds, and a couple of kids, and you might as well just sit quietly and watch. Or go into another room. Or outside. And have another cocktail!
- Father: cochlear implant wearer
- Stepmother: hearing-aid wearer with hyperacusis (acute sensitivity to noise)
- Me: hearing-aid wearer for ~20 years. Moderate-severe.
- Other family members present, but not in this particular example.
Rules of the house:
- Kitchen: whisper to avoid reverb, don’t slam or drop anything.
- Elsewhere: No music or other background noise. No side conversations. Repeat as necessary. Face listener. Be prepared to rephrase. Do not talk too loudly or in an exaggerated/unnatural way.
Father and I are having a conversation in the kitchen about my switching from my old computer to a new one, and my frustration.
Father: What does the computer’s memory have to do with it?
Stepmother (whispers to me): “He doesn’t understand this stuff.”
Father (to Stepmother): “Hey, gimme a break!”
Violation: Whispering a side comment about the HoH person (Father), assuming the HoH person won’t hear/see it, (or enough of it).
Mistakes: 1. Thinking that Father, although he didn’t hear much, if any, of the side comment, wouldn’t know that it was a) about him, and b) an attempt to speak under his radar. 2. Underestimating the role of nonverbals in conversation.
Penalty: I (Me) turn to Father, paying attention only to him, and continue to talk about the computer-memory question as if nothing had happened to interrupt the flow.
Result: Open argument about the comment avoided. Close call. Number 23 out of 4,587 opportunities presented. Success rate: 27%.