“Eh? What? Pardon?”

I haven’t updated this blog for an extremely long time as I’ve been working on other projects (check out Curzon/Harkstead), but here I am. As I wrote a long time ago, I’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss – a rare genetic condition called Cookie Bite Hearing Loss. I’m sure it must have a more scientific-sounding name than that, but if it does, I have no idea what it is. Oh, and I have a thoroughly unwelcome side order of tinnitus, too.

Living with hearing loss is a right old pest sometimes, so I’m going to post on this ‘ere blog about my disability. Partly because it helps people without hearing loss to gain an insight into what it’s like, but mainly because I’m not the only person who has hearing issues, and sometimes it helps if you can read about how someone else deals with their disability.

Living with hearing loss during the pandemic has been very difficult. I’m sure even people with “normal” hearing found it hard to work out what people were saying through masks, and it’s even worse when you’re trying to talk to someone who’s not only wearing a mask, but is standing at least one metre away from you, behind a plastic screen. There’s only so many times I can bear to say “sorry, could you repeat that, please? I’m deaf*” so after the third time, I just nod and smile and say, “yes, yes…”, hoping like heck they haven’t just told me something to which that response is completely inappropriate. Like, “someone’s just died.” No one wants you to nod and smile in response to that.

It’s especially frustrating if you’ve just disclosed the fact you’re deaf to a complete stranger, and they make no attempt at all to adjust how they’re speaking. If you’re still speaking at the same volume, behind a screen and a mask and a metre from me, then I’m not going to suddenly be able to hear what you’ve just said just because you’ve repeated it in exactly the same way. But… seeing as we’ve been living with (heck, we’re still living with) horrible old covid, I’ve never got shirty with people or demanded they rip off their mask and leap across the counter like a stunt artist so that I can hear them better. Because no one wants to get covid.** Yes, some shops have induction loops, but they frequently don’t work, and even if they do, I often find they don’t make a great deal of difference.

Bored of having to ask people to repeat things, and so used now to disclosing my disability, I’ve taken to wearing badges. The big blue badge, saying “Hearing impaired – please be patient”, with the ear with a line through it sign, is perhaps the most easily spotted, and when I’ve worn it in shops and spoken to staff, I’ve seen them clock the badge, then make a point of speaking more slowly and clearly. So many thanks, shop staff, you are fab.

*More on definitions and terminology another time.
**Actually, there’s no doubt some people kicking about who do want to get it, but they must be a fraction of a percentage point. Fingers crossed – otherwise there is no hope for humanity.