I wanted to ask for etiquette help regarding something that I realized has hampered me socially.
I am completely deaf in one ear. Due to this, I have difficulty telling some words from others or discerning words, even if the sound gets to me which it often may not. The worst thing? Background noise. So a classroom where we are told to break into smaller groups and talk becomes hellish...as do restaurants...and parties...clubs...happy hour...book clubs...basically everything that most people do in order to socialize and build friendships.
I am very self conscious about asking people to repeat themselves. I don't want them to think I wasn't listening. I also feel silly spending the whole time leaning towards whoever is speaking with my good ear pointed towards them...but it's what I have to do if I want to have any chance of hearing them. This difficulty consequently affects where I can sit in a group, and requires me to be on the right side of people whenever we are walking and talking.
It is very frustrating and tiring dealing with having "half" a disability and an "invisible" one to boot. If I had a visible hearing aid or talked using sign language people would know they needed to adjust their communication. As it is there is nothing to indicate that I have special needs in this area unless I make a point of bringing it up, and I sometimes find it difficult to bring it up. Since I know people here will mention it: a hearing aid is not an option. I looked into it and it would not help my particular kind of hearing impairment. It is a clarity issue, not a volume issue (incidentally this is one of the reasons I hate talking on the phone).
I don't know why I feel like I am the bad guy who is "inconveniencing" other people. I don't think wanting to be included is unreasonable. It isn't that I have encountered any bad treatment...people just seem to be very oblivious and make the assumption that I am fully functioning unless I make a bigger deal about it. Like someone will see me listening to my ipod with only one earbud in and start talking to me because they assume I can hear them. Then I become the "rude" person who is "ignoring" them - nope, not ignoring I just didn't know you said anything!
My problems with this have led me to hesitate to accept invitations that I really would like to take. I am in an acting class and a very sweet classmate asked me if I wanted to go to a bar and hang out afterwards...my first thought was to picture myself as I usually end up - the outsider in the middle of everyone who is straining to hear and connect with the garbled conversation swirling around her. I end up floating aimlessly on the fringe of most groups, hoping they don't think me aloof or stuck-up. I'm really not, I just have such a hard time connecting!
I am not antisocial, but I've had to make a lot of adjustments around personal issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. After a lot of mental health work, I have made a lot of improvement and now I am trying to improve my social skills and this has become a major stumbling block. Does anyone have any advice on how I can handle this? How/when should I bring up my hearing issue? How can I politely and lightly ask for repetition, the seat I need, the side I need to walk on, and other reasonable(?) accommodations that I need to function successfully in a social setting? I don't want to make this into a "thing." I don't want to be labeled SS or draw attention away from the rest of the group.
Any suggestions, feedback, and sharing of similar situations would be much appreciated.