I have hearing loss in my left ear, and wear a hearing aid. It is such a tiny little thing, stuck behind my left ear that I never thought anyone would notice. And I was happy about that. This device is nothing like the hearing aids of old, and is completely unobtrusive. I forget it’s there. In fact I have had a shower with it on…bad idea. They don’t like water. Ooops. Lucky for me it dried out fine and is still working.
At dog obedience training this week Elke and I moved up to a new class, with a new instructor. Immediately after we went through the class introductions, the instructor came over to me and said:
‘I notice you have a hearing aid. Please, if at any time you can’t hear what I’m saying, just raise your arm and I’ll repeat myself.’
She then she told the rest of the class that I was hearing impaired and to please keep in mind that it would be hard for me to hear over the background noise, outdoors, multiple dogs and people conversing. She asked if anyone else had any disabilities or issues that might affect their ability to train.
It was done so simply, and matter-of-factly and respectfully, as normal as if she was asking if anyone had blue eyes, or blond hair. To her ‘disability’ is a normal thing to be discussed openly and without shame or embarrassment. Such a refreshing attitude, rather than the hushed tones and ‘don’t know which way to look or what to say’ moments that I have oft encountered.
It was such a relief. It opened the conversation for all of us, gave me a simple and quick opportunity to explain that I move slower and why, and that I might be showing up in a wheelchair some weeks. And it allowed others to tell their stories as well, succinctly. And now we all know each other a little better, and have a lot of empathy for each other. Because out of seven of us, three of us have serious illness or an invisible disability.
We’re everywhere. And it’s nice to be brought into the open, effortlessly and naturally, and to feel understood.