April 8, 2013

Leaning Forward to Listen: A Stressful and Tiring Experience

Recently, I was at a small party in someone's backyard. I sat outside at a table with five other people. Music played in the background. A lawn mower rumbled in the distance. A few other people sat and stood nearby conversing with each other. This was not an ideal listening environment, especially for someone like me who is hard of hearing. I braced myself for what was to come.

I tried to follow the conversations. I got bits and pieces. I was very quiet, because I was not sure what they were talking about and I did not want to randomly say something that has nothing to do with what they were discussing. One time I did say something in response to someone's question, when I was sure I understood what she asked. I was relieved that I got it right.

I grew tired and bored. I suddenly felt as if something was off or out of place. Something was different. I looked around at everyone. They slumped in their chairs with their legs stretched out before them; looking totally relaxed. I realized that I was the only one leaning forward with my legs tucked under me. My expression was taut as I tried to concentrate. My neck and shoulders started to hurt.

I leaned back and tried to relax. But, as a result, I was missing out on what they were saying. I asked a question and started a new topic. I felt better as I stretched my legs before me and relaxed my shoulders. They seemed interested in what I had to say. However, someone at the end of the table made a comment. I did not understand what she said. I asked her to repeat herself. I started to sit up. I looked awkward as I tried to relax and lean forward at the same time. I still could not understand her. I sat back up and leaned forward again. I tensed up as I looked at her face, lips, and reactions of others; gathering clues. I asked her to please repeat what she said but in a different way. I pointed to my hearing aid and said that I am having trouble hearing at the moment. Someone next to me repeated what she said, which was helpful. Then I finally got it and was able to respond to her. I got several questions about my hearing and my job as an itinerant teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students. The lawn mower, music, and other people talking sounded louder. I was having trouble understanding their questions. I grew tired. I started to get a headache.

The whole experience was exhausting. I left soon afterwards.

It is too bad that I was not able to just relax and enjoy myself.

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8 comments:

  1. Totally understand, makes you not want to talk to anyone!

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    1. Nice to know I am not alone!

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  2. Yes, hard of hearing people also become great "day-dreamers". It seems to be the only way to pass the boredom of not being able to hear, while looking "engaged" and relaxed. Talking is easy. Listening is hard. Parties are stressful.

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    1. Yes, listening can be HARD. Not a lot of people understand this.

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  3. Oh my.. I have experienced this many, many times. As my hearing has gotten much worse in the last few years I really miss evenings with friends, concerts etc....I do try and avoid large gatherings as much as possible....

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    1. Yes, it is difficult being a part of large gatherings. I subject myself to it every now and then, just to be social and it can sometimes be fun even if I can't follow what everyone is saying.

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  4. That is why I take knitting with me everywhere.

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    1. Yes, knitting is relaxing. Great idea. I should take up knitting.

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Keep it civil.