Walk a mile in my shoes - COVID style

Posted by jennifer gibson on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 Under: COVID - March 2020

Going to the hospital this week for my spinal injections was a nightmare for someone like me with a profound hearing loss during the COVID crisis. Everywhere I looked, everyone was wearing a mask. This is the worst thing to do since I have absolutely no idea what is being said. I rely on lip reading as much as possible and need to see facial expressions. Fortunately, the staff that I deal with on a regular basis know me very well and were very understanding about my situation. They knew I was having a hard time trying to understand what everyone was saying. We kept our distance and they were able to momentarily lower their mask for a few seconds for me to lip read them. Thank you! 

Then I had a light bulb moment. It made me realize that since everyone is being isolated or home schooled, this would be the perfect opportunity to turn it into an educational experience about living with a disability. Hearing loss, particularly the more severe it is, can be very isolating. It makes it very difficult to interact with people on a daily basis since we lose so much information as a result. It’s not that we are lazy or disinterested, it is simply a lack of being able to understand what is being spoken. 

It takes an enormous amount of energy to lip-read someone and watch what they are doing as well. We are very visual people since we rely so much on our eyes to perceive what is happening all around us. We do our best to keep up with the rest the world and often fail due to fatigue, stress, or anxiety. When I’m tired, ill or having a lot of pain, my ability to listen drops dramatically since it uses up so much energy. 

Dark environments are the worst situations for me since I can’t see anyone’s face or able to lip read them. This includes places like restaurants that often have very poor lightning such as The Keg, stores like Abercrombie and Fitch that frequently use dim lights, theatres that are naturally dark or being in the car at night. I literally have no clue what anyone is saying since my ears are useless! 

As a child, I was frequently punished by my teachers every time I tried to ask them to repeat themselves or clarify what they said. I went through a lot of abuse at school which has left deep emotional and mental scars. To this day, I have a hard time asking anyone to repeat themselves since it brings back so many horrible memories. 

So, if you happen to be someone who has tried to talk to me in a noisy environment or in a large group setting, please bear with me while I try to process what is being said. It may take me longer to get what you said or understand what is going on. And since my hearing loss is so severe, I’m literally guessing what is being said most of the time and I do make mistakes. Sometimes they are hilarious or rather entertaining, but most of the time it’s incredibly embarrassing for me when that happens, and that bothers me a lot since it makes me feel like an idiot. 

I had originally posted this article back in the summer of 2015 and realized this is the perfect time to discover what it's like to be deaf or hard of hearing. All it takes is a pair of good fitting ear plugs and patience, I want to see how long you can wear them. You can try your skills at lip-reading videos on Youtube, Netflix or iTunes (No cheating! Keep those captions off and turn down the volume as much as possible). When playing games with your family, see if you can keep up with their questions and answers. While having breakfast, lunch or dinner, let's see how hard it is for you to understand what everyone is saying while they are busy chewing or looking down at their plate. Discover how hard it is to lip read when they are wearing sunglasses or even chewing gum! It's harder than you think! If you choose to try talking to someone on the phone, let them know ahead of time that you are doing a hearing loss experiment. They may want to try it too! 

No cheating! You must wear those ear plugs for every situation ALL DAY. No excuses.That means continuing to do everything that you normally do throughout the day.  If possible, keep a journal with you and write down everything that happens whether it's a positive or negative reaction.  By doing this, you are getting a glimpse of what it's like for me every single day. If you do try this during the COVID crisis as part of an educational experience, please let me know how it went. 

In the meantime, here are some great links that have simulators for you to try:

Hearing Loss Simulation :  (my hearing loss is severe to profound which you can hear at the 1:50 mark)

The Real Sounds of Hearing Loss:

Sound Impressions:

Please take a moment to watch this video about hearing loss around the world:

Definitely check out this superb video diary of Dr Who and Torchwood actor John Barrowman going deaf for the day:

In : COVID - March 2020 

Tags: covid  2020  "hearing loss simulation"  isolation  "home school experiments" 
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