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Living with me: A Hard of Hearing Perspective

Over the last decade, I have lived with several different people. Through this experience, I have learned quite a few things about myself that I think would be worthwhile to share. While a few of these things can also be found in my previous post about communication strategies, I think they are very important to know for roommates as well. Some scenarios are unique to living situations: for example, my roommates in the past have had to learn that choosing to start a conversation with me immediately after I have a shower isn’t the best decision because it either results in them thinking I ignored them entirely or a lot of frustration from both of us. Here are some of the biggest things I would want future roommates to know from a hard of hearing perspective.

#1. I’m going to ask “what was that sound?”….. a lot.

  • I have yet to find a pair of hearing aids that make localizing sound easier and because of this, I often have no idea where a sound is coming from when I hear it. So, when I am around people, especially in my own home, I want to know what I hear at all times. For example, I heard a swishing sound a few months back and I must have asked my partner at least 5 times what the sound was because I couldn’t for the life of me figure it out. What I thought I was hearing behind my couch was actually the sound of moving water in a pipe that was across the other side of the room. I often say that getting new hearing aids means that you have to relearn everyday sounds since that has been my experience every time. So, please be patient if someone asks something similar and try your best to help them figure out what they are hearing too, they’ll be very thankful that you did!

#2. If you know my hearing aids are out, please don’t try to start a conversation.

  • When sharing a space with multiple roommates, I often had to trek up and down the stairs without my hearing aids on before/after I showered. Fellow hearing aid users know how bad humidity can be, so it is never a good idea to lock the little devices in the steam-trap that is a bathroom. At that moment, I would often become a part of an in-depth conversation and would have to interrupt halfway through to let them know I maybe caught 3 words total. Needless to say, to avoid a whole lot of frustration from both parties, if you know your hard of hearing roommate is without their hearing aids, try to stick to smiling, gesturing, or writing until they are ready to hear you!

#3. I might get spooked easily.

  • While this might be a “me” thing and not solely related to hearing loss, I wanted to include this just in case! I often jump or gasp when roommates come into a room without me knowing or get my attention when I don’t expect them to be there. This is simply because I often can’t hear them enter the room and only figure it out as they are right beside me. To solve this in the future for another person that might get as spooked as I do, try to make your presence known before talking. For example, try to wait until they are facing you before approaching them (especially if their back is turned): this will help immensely!

#4. Please don’t hesitate to repeat yourself.

  • This tip has shown up on my other blog posts because I really can’t stress it enough. Refusing to repeat what was said for whatever reason leads to feelings of frustration and isolation. I often ask those closest to me to repeat what was said on behalf of another person simply to avoid these feelings. I jokingly call them my “translator” because I know they will helpfully repeat what those around me said when I don’t catch the full conversation and will do so without making me feel inferior. It unfortunately happens more often than not that someone will not want to repeat themselves (due to a poor joke, misspeaking, thinking it is unimportant, etc.) but even if you think it is best not repeated, it makes us hard of hearing folk feel inferior. At the end of the day, if I didn’t have hearing loss, I likely would have heard it in the first place.

#5. I constantly worry about sleeping through my alarm.

  • This has since been solved by the use of my smart watch that has a vibrating alarm. However, before this, I would often ask my roommates to please make sure they saw me in the morning before leaving for school. Having another person around to make sure that my alarm woke me up was extremely helpful. While I am a very light sleeper, hearing my alarm to actually wake me up has not always been easy. It only took one single time that I was late for a shift at work due to sleeping in that makes me constantly worry about it seven years later. Knowing another person was around to make sure this doesn’t happen again led to much less anxiety and a better sleep overall. So, if you are able to look out for your roommates in this way, they will be very happy!

#6. I can’t hear very well in background noise.

  • Whether it be big crowds, group dinner at a restaurant or a lively concert, hearing in background noise with hearing aids can be extremely difficult. Technology has certainly improved over the last few decades but unfortunately not to the extent that these situations are easy to hear in. While I consider myself to be regularly extroverted, knowing that I can’t hear in these environments make me second guess whether I should attend or not since I know I’ll likely end up frustrated. So, when you live with a person who might feel the same way, try to keep this in mind when you go to noisy places with them. Staying close by, helping them hear what announcements are in a busy airport and/or repeating what the employee at a restaurant asked will be incredibly helpful in making these situations feel a lot less stressful.

#7. If you have a question about my hearing loss, please just ask!

  • Some people think that they shouldn’t ask questions related to hearing loss because it may be a sensitive topic or too personal. I however would much rather a person ask me than wonder! Growing up with hearing loss led to quite a few uncomfortable situations; the staring being the worse one. If my hearing aids are visible, please don’t be shy to ask about them! I would much rather you ask than stare and wonder. If you are unsure if a person is willing to answer a personal question, it doesn’t hurt to phrase the question in a different way (For example: “Hey, do you mind if I ask you a question about your hearing loss/experience with hearing aids/ etc?”). This gives them to opportunity to say no without being worried about offending you and also could be a less uncomfortable way of approaching it.

There you have it, 7 things to keep in mind if you have a hard of hearing roommate. When in doubt, it never hurts to have a conversation with them to see their side of things. If you ever have any questions for me based on my own experiences, please don’t hesitate to reach out through this blog! I love answering them and educating others about my hearing loss is one of my biggest passions in life!


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