The first time… Part 2: being brave and feeling proud

When I first experienced my hearing loss, I couldn’t contemplate doing normal things such as going to a bar; which is a big part of the culture of Spain, where I live. I remember walking around the city, watching people spilling out of bars chatting sociably, and wondering if I would ever be able to feel comfortable again in this kind of animated environment; alive with noise. Then one day my best friend invited me to go to a bar where she was exhibiting some of her photos. I didn’t want to say no. I didn’t want to let her down. I wanted to see her, and her photos. So, the first time I went to a bar, with unilateral hearing, was to see my friend’s exhibition. Of course it was going to be noisy, and I was mentally prepared for this. When we arrived, I immediately submerged myself in the sounds of vibrant conversation.  I managed to communicate with everyone and listened to them by tilting my head and making sure my good ear was facing them. Although it was exhausting and my tinnitus was ringing aggressively, I was really proud of myself for confronting such a challenging situation.

The first time I went, with unilateral hearing, for a haircut, I was so nervous. I knew the salon would be noisy and I knew the hairdresser would want to chat with me. I didn’t want her to think I was being rude if I failed to respond to her during conversation. So when I was sat on the chair explaining to her what I’d like to have done with my hair, I also told her that I was deaf in my left ear. She barely had a response, apart from saying “OK” and giving me a smile.  As she was cutting my hair she sometimes spoke to me on my deaf side. When she was blow-drying my hair, it was impossible for me to hear her, and she continued chatting happily. I could see her mouth moving in the mirror, but didn’t know how to answer her. Yet she didn’t seem to be phased. I guess hairdressers see so many different people every day, with so many issues, and learn to take it in their stride.

I love eating out in restaurants; in fact it’s one of my favourite things. If I go to eat in a restaurant however, there are only a few tables that are accommodating to my needs. The best table for me is one that is in a corner, with a chair situated in a position that will allow my deaf ear to face a wall, and my good ear to face the direction of any possible conversation. The worst positions are: at a table in the middle of a room; sitting with my back to where the waiter will approach; and anywhere where my deaf ear is directed towards the waiter – This will result in me jumping up in my chair in surprise as I turn to unwittingly see a waiter standing next to me, who I hadn’t sensed was there.  The first time I went for a meal in a restaurant, with my unilateral hearing, was when my boyfriend’s sister came to visit. We went to a Thai restaurant on a weekday, and earlier than the average Spanish person eats. The restaurant was almost empty and I managed to get a good position at a table. Although there was very little noise from people talking, I found the Thai music that was being played, a distraction. My good ear struggled to filter out the music and it was difficult to focus on conversation. It was quite a difficult experience, in terms of my hearing related problems and communicating. But I was really proud of myself for going, and it was worth the struggle, to have the experience of eating Thai food in a restaurant.

Every time I did something for the first time, I gained a bit of confidence. Things weren’t easy and often weren’t pleasant, but every day I was trying to do something ‘normal’. I was positive I would be able to enjoy things again. I just needed to familiarize my body with the new experiences and learn strategies to deal with any new issues. My life was still going to be full of experiences; it was just going to be a bit different.

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Author: myhearinglossstory

Hi, My name is Carly. I am 34 years old and I am currently living in Spain. I am originally from a small seaside town in Yorkshire called Bridlington, and have also lived in China and Thailand. I am an Early Years primary school teacher, and have been teaching for nearly 12 years. I love walking in the countryside, getting lost in Madrid, going out for breakfast, taking photos, listening to music, storytelling podcasts, baking, running, drinking wine, and eating spicy food. This year I experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear. I have started this blog as a way to inform my friends and family about my progress, for anyone else who is going through a similar experience as me, or for anybody who is interested in learning about this type of hearing loss, and the way it can affect everyday life.

8 thoughts on “The first time… Part 2: being brave and feeling proud”

  1. Being a hard of hearing hairdresser for many years I know how loud salons are. I couldn’t wait to take my hearing aids out when my last client left. Every year that I worked in a salon I lost a little hearing. Now that I go to home bound people’s houses to do hair, I haven’t lost any more hearing. That’s a scary link. Anyway, I had clients who were very good about my hearing loss and knew not to talk during the blow dry process. I had a few who never got it and chatted happily the whole time and apparently didn’t require any answers either. No matter how many times I reminded them I couldn’t hear they talked anyway. I figured at that point I was allowed to bluff. (Only if they were a regular and I already knew what to do.)

    I like all the examples you give about hearing loss in public. Continue being a deaf explorer and you will continue to gain confidence. There are many times I failed but I used those times to make it better the next time I tried so stay open and keep experimenting.

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    1. Hello Chelle
      Thank you for the encouraging and thought-provoking comment. It was interesting to read about how you used to work in a salon and how every year you lost a little more hearing – quite a scary link, as you said. I am a teacher and I work with 4 year olds, so am also in a noisy environment. I haven’t gone back to work yet, since losing the hearing in my left ear, as I find it very difficult to hear someone speak to me in background noise. I also seem to have developed sensitivity to noises. I wondered if you have any tips on how you managed to work in a salon, with hearing loss?
      I like the term ‘deaf explorer’ – maybe this is what I will refer to myself as 🙂 Take care and best wishes. Carly

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      1. I took my hearing aids out as soon I was done with my last client, lol. And I refused to wear them at home as my hearing break. (I had a very understanding family.) Take hearing breaks as needed, I would take my aids out between clients too when I had gaps.
        Check out recruitment and hyperacusis too. Hyperacusis is extreme sensitivity to noise.
        Young voices are so hard to hear especially with all their movement. We are working with my 6 yr old ADD grandson about facing me and he’s getting good. I think it teaches tolerance. When you go back, you will be teaching a whole generation of kids tolerance as long as you are up front about it. I think that’s cool.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you for your reply Chelle 🙂 yes, I think I have hyperacusis too. It’s something that was mentioned to me when this first happened. I agree, young voices can be hard to hear, and often difficult to listen to…glad your grandson is getting better at facing you when he’s talking to you. Young children often find it difficult to look at the person they are speaking to, so I know that teaching this can be a challenge!…i really like what you said about me having the opportunity to teach tolerance – I’ve already thought about dealing with certain issues, such as showing them which ear to speak to me in, and also taking turns when speaking (this is something I always try to encourage, but perhaps the children will understand this more when they realize I can’t respond to them if they’re all talking at once – it might work to my advantage 😉 ). Take care and thank you so much for your support 🙂 Carly

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  2. Amazing to read about how you are being brave and tackling this. Way to go. Stay positive and never give up. Like you said, it’s all about familiarizing your body with the new experiences and learning strategies to deal with any new issues. You can do it!

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