Author Topic: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?  (Read 3719 times)

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Softly Spoken

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How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« on: March 11, 2013, 01:49:57 AM »
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.  :)
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snowdragon

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #1 on: March 11, 2013, 02:17:29 AM »


I have a friend I used to work with who had the same issue, and she'd just tell folks up front "I am deaf in my right ear, if you stand their/speak into it, ect I wo'n't hear you."  or "Sorry, you're on my right, I can't hear you when you their, can I move so I can hear you?"

As for the ipod thing, why not just put both in and you can take out the one that you have hearing in when someone wants to speak to you, then you control the issue.

For the ambient noise - I am stumped there, sorry.  So I have to ask what accommodations do you want folks to make for you?


lady_disdain

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #2 on: March 11, 2013, 02:24:29 AM »
Could you take the initiative in suggesting places and activities that are better for you? If it is just a small group get together, could you propose a place that is better for you. Specially in the example of the friendly classmate (which read, to me, as a more one-on-one interaction), I think it would have been perfectly fine to say "Oh, I would love to get together, but bars are so noisy. How about [insert idea] instead?"

I would also recommend letting people know you have this issue, as snowdragon said. The more people know about it, the easier it will be to accommodate you.

blue2000

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2013, 03:23:23 AM »
My brother has noticeable hearing loss in one ear. If someone he doesn't know is speaking to him in the wrong ear he will tell them (politely) that he cannot hear them. He is very social, so bars, restaurants, and large groups are a frequent thing for him. I have never heard of anyone getting mad over this.

It is hard to get the courage to speak up, but you need to tell people! If they object to raising their voice or talking into your good ear, they are the rude ones.
You are only young once. After that you have to think up some other excuse.

Nox

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2013, 03:26:29 AM »
I don't know if you don't want to share medical info, but I don't think that it's odd or awkward to give people a heads up. Just tell them something like, "I'd love to go to <bar>, but my right ear's bad and I can never hear people in places like that. How about <quiet coffee shop> instead?"

Cymraes

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2013, 03:33:49 AM »
I too am deaf in one ear - well virtually deaf. Although I also have a hearing aid for my other ear, I rarely use it because it causes a problem with ambient sound drowning out people's speech (I haven't yet found an aid which helps me hear what I need to hear without amplifying sounds I don't need to hear - being deaf is complicated!)

I was given a lanyard and communication card by my local hearing support group - a card which says "I am hard of hearing. Please face me and speak clearly." I find it very useful, not just for complex "official" situations like sorting out my banking accounts in a crowded bank, but also for reminding my friends and colleagues that I can't always follow conversations and often miss out on the punchlines of jokes etc.

Would you have access to anything similar?
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Dazi

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2013, 08:00:49 AM »
I have pronounced hearing loss on one side.  I find it easiest and least awkward just to tell people up front.  I've never had anyone be an bacon-fed knave about it.  Some people do forget and I'll have to remind them when they try to talk to the back of my head, that I can't hear them.

As long as someone is facing me while talking, I can generally read their lips and can figure out what they are saying between the sound I can hear and lip movement.  Restaurants and bars are challenging, not because of the ambient noise (which doesn't help matters),but because of the very dim lighting.  I find going for lunch is generally less challenging...less people, less noise, bright lights.
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Pen^2

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #7 on: March 11, 2013, 08:07:48 AM »
Like (surprisingly!) others here, I am completely deaf in one ear. Background noise is the absolute worst, and I rely on combining the shape of people's mouths as they talk with what little of their voice makes it to me. If I've forgotten my glasses, then I pretty much have to sit out of the conversation. And dark places with lots of noise, like clubs etc. are impossible at the best of times.

As others have said, I make the issue known right up front. "Sorry, can I ask you to repeat that? I'm partially deaf." I've had people (generally strangers with whom I have to deal as a part of life, e.g. bank tellers) say that "hearing in one ear only" isn't an excuse for poor hearing  :o but "partially deaf" gets their attention. Afterwards, people are pretty good and it's no bother.

Just like a person who can't swim or has an ear infection might decline an invitation to the pool, it's normal to decide not to go out to places where you won't be able to communicate at all due to poor hearing. Everyone has something or other they have to take into account when deciding whether to go somewhere. So I've never really seen not being able to go to dance clubs as a bother.

bopper

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #8 on: March 11, 2013, 09:37:12 AM »
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.

Can you be straightfoward with what you need?

"I would love to hang out with you guys! Thanks for the invite.  I just wanted to mention one thing up front...I am completely deaf in my right ear.  So I may need to sit in a certain seat to hear the best or may ask for a repeat of things from time to time. I have always wanted to try Bob's Bistro!"

Winterlight

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #9 on: March 11, 2013, 09:53:21 AM »
Just ask! Put it simply and without drama and most reasonable people are going to be happy to accomodate, just like they work around Joe's peanut allergy and Sabrina's fear of heights.
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Judah

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #10 on: March 11, 2013, 10:31:06 AM »
Just ask! Put it simply and without drama and most reasonable people are going to be happy to accomodate, just like they work around Joe's peanut allergy and Sabrina's fear of heights.

Yes. People won't know you have a problem if you don't tell them, so tell them. It sounds like you've been expecting people to accommodate your hearing loss without you having to tell them you have hearing loss, but, as you say, it's an invisible disability, so you really need to let people  know.
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Cami

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #11 on: March 11, 2013, 11:13:47 AM »
I work with a man who is deaf in one ear, who has to have meetings with strangers on a daily basis. He always just tells people right up front. If he has to remind someone, he does so in a matter-of-fact manner.  I've worked with him for 7 years and been in most of those meetings with him and it's never been a big deal.

Ms_Cellany

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #12 on: March 11, 2013, 11:27:32 AM »
I have what's known as "cocktail party deafness." In auditory tests, my hearing is perfectly fine as far as detecting low-volume tones -- but in the auditory clutter of background noise and clattering, my brain processing falls short, and I can't make out what people are saying.

I just say "I can't hear conversations well when there's a lot of background," and suggest places that work for me.
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Tabby Uprising

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #13 on: March 11, 2013, 11:27:39 AM »
I work with a man who is deaf in one ear, who has to have meetings with strangers on a daily basis. He always just tells people right up front. If he has to remind someone, he does so in a matter-of-fact manner.  I've worked with him for 7 years and been in most of those meetings with him and it's never been a big deal.

I have a couple of friends who are deaf in one ear and this is exactly what they do.  It's effective and has always been taken well. 

Tea Drinker

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Re: How to integrate a less-than-obvious disability?
« Reply #14 on: March 11, 2013, 07:41:06 PM »
A possible phrasing forr asking to stand on a specific side when walking: "Can you please stand on my right, I want to hear what you have to say."

To some extent, it's a question of how up-front you're prepared to be, and some approaches will draw attention. A friend of mine got a button made that says (very approximately, I'm doing this from memory) "Please face me and speak clearly, I read lips." She has the option of pinning it to her shirt or jacket, or not, at any given time (if she'd rather risk missing things than drawing attention from people she's not talking to). Even if you don't read lips, some variation might be useful ("I'm not ignoring you, I'm deaf in my left ear.")
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