If you have no problem with your hearing, it’s very hard to be aware of what it is like for people with hearing loss. First, hearing loss is an invisible handicap, unlike most other physical disabilities. If you meet people with hearing loss, you don’t recognize them as handicapped. When they don’t understand you, you assume they are not interested in what you say, or they just ignore you, or they are loners. Speaking louder does not help, and loud noises often hurt the ears of people with hearing-aids.

The physical handicap of hearing loss may also lead to an emotional handicap, a profound self-consciousness. If I usually don’t join in conversations, you will easily regard me as a strange person, and I am fully aware of that. My choice then is either to let it go at that – reinforcing your opinion – or to risk inappropriately barging into conversations, when I mistakenly think there is a short lull and I quickly jump in, interrupting someone else – and I feel deeply embarrassed and shut up.

Even if you know I have a hearing problem and are very attentive to me, it can be difficult. We may be talking face to face and I easily follow you, but you turn your head, or a loud noise interrupts us, and I lose you. Or I fail to understand just one word of what you say, and I ask you several times to repeat it, and you say ,”Just forget it”. For the lack of one word, the whole speech was lost!

Some very attentive people may perceive that you want to say something and invite you to speak up. But that’s demanding quite a bit of other people. Even for the most caring and closest family and friends, it’s easy to forget.

As we grow older, most of us will develop some handicap. You don’t get to choose your own handicap, you only get to make the best of it. Hearing loss is not the worst, but it is a serious and invisible handicap. Here at EDENTON we learn to be patient and respectful with others, and we know we can count on others to reciprocate.

-Paul Feys, Resident of Edenton Retirement Community

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