Small Talk with a Stylist

During the summer, while spending some time in England, I had a really great experience at a hair salon. Although I was very happy with my new style, this wasn’t the reason for the experience being great. It was great because I had a conversation with my stylist. This maybe doesn’t sound like anything noteworthy, but for someone with a hearing loss, to be able to converse in a hair salon is actually something pretty fantastic.

There is so much background noise in a hair salon. There are the hairdryers, and the music that is often played loudly to be heard over the sound of the dryers. There must be the noise of water running out of the taps from the sinks where people have their hair washed, but this gets lost amongst the other sounds. There is the noise of people talking in raised voices attempting to converse; in a battle of audio strength with the other sounds of the salon. There are generally no or few soft furnishings in hair salons – I guess it wouldn’t be very practical to have thick curtains and carpets, due to all the stray hair. With an absence of soft furnishings, there is nothing to absorb the sound, and so it spends it’s time bumping into the mirrors, bouncing off the windows and porcelain sinks; continuously combining with the additional noises being produced every second.

It almost seems like it is part of a hairdresser’s job to make small talk with their customers. A hairdresser may get to know their client’s holiday plans; where they work; where they live; if they are in a relationship and if so for how long; and whether they have kids. The salon chair is often akin to the therapists couch; inspiring people to speak about their personal lives. Since my hearing loss, I have struggled with the whole hair-cutting experience due to the amount of noise in hair salons and the conversation difficulties. I was feeling a little nervous before going to this appointment. I had waited until I was in England visiting my sister to get my hair cut; at least this way I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to speak Spanish as well as not being able to hear properly. The appointment was at my regular hair salon, though I hadn’t met the stylist before. As usual the stylist and I had a quick conversation about the type of cut I would like, and then just before the stylist left to ask a colleague to wash my hair, I quickly added (whilst cupping my left ear with my left hand), “Oh, by the way, I’m deaf in this ear.” Lauren, the stylist smiled and assured me that this was fine.

After having my hair washed, I was back again sitting in the chair facing my reflection in the mirror. During the couple of weeks prior to this appointment, I had been trying to develop my lip-reading skills naturally by watching lips during conversations, and had had some success in doing this, especially in bars and restaurants. I was keen to continue practising my new superpower-in-progress.

Even the best lip-readers are only able to understand around 30% of what is actually said by solely relying on lip-reading; the rest is educated guesswork, gathered from context.  In fact ventriloquists are able to produce a voice with little or no movement of the lips, since most sounds are produced inside the mouth where you can’t see them. And so, there is a limit to how accurate even the most skilled of lip-readers could ever be, because most sounds aren’t produced with the lips. Nevertheless, watching a speaker’s lip movements, facial expressions and gestures during a conversation can be very beneficial in aiding verbal communication.

I watched Lauren’s lips in the mirror as she spoke, and in using the shapes her lips were making along with the sounds and words I could hear, I was able to follow most of what she was saying. After telling me about her work schedule for the week, she asked me what I did for work. I told her that I teach in Madrid. She told me she had never been there, though she had once been to Barcelona and that she had loved it. She commented on her holiday saying, “You know Pans, Pans and Co’?” (This is a sandwich franchise in Spain) “Why don’t they have them here? It’s like, they have Subway here, but Pans and Co is way better. The bread is amazing! Oh, I just want a Pans!” I smiled at this remark, and the conversation continued in a light-hearted dance of words.

I briefly noted that whilst watching the movement of Lauren’s lips in the mirror, it at least meant that I wasn’t spending the time awkwardly looking at my reflection. She must have noticed my stare, and asked me, “So do you lip-read then?” My secret was out. She wanted to talk about it. Great – I was happy to discuss my new project. I told her that I was trying to learn how to read lips. Lauren then asked whether I had always been deaf in my left ear. She seemed really interested – not just the general hairdresser level of interest – she actually seemed curious about my hearing loss. I told her my story in brief. She then surprised me by telling me her story. She recounted how she had caught glandular fever multiple times when she was a child, and this had resulted in her losing the hearing in one of her ears. She told me that she had found it really difficult especially since the doctors weren’t able to tell her whether her hearing would return. Luckily it did return within 3 months. She explained how during her time with hearing loss, she used to have the sensation of being underwater; the sound and pressure of water filling and whooshing past her ears. I told her that I also have this feeling.  I described how I always think sounds are coming from my right side, and she finished my sentence by saying, “Because that’s the ear you are hearing everything through.” The conversation moved to some more general discussion about hair thickness after that. But for that brief moment, it had felt so great to have shared a few words with someone who had an understanding of my hearing loss.

After this small exchange of experiences, Lauren switched off the hairdryer every time she wanted to tell me something of importance. She also spent most of the time with her body turned so that I could look at her face-on in the mirror, and follow her lips and her words. I felt such a sense of accomplishment to have been able to understand so much more of the conversation than I had on previous trips to the hair salon, following my hearing loss. Of course I didn’t understand everything that was said, but I doubt many people do. I left the salon with a new hairstyle and some newly found confidence in my developing superpower.

Author: myhearinglossstory

Hi, My name is Carly. I am 36 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 more than 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. In August 2016, I experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear. I 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.

14 thoughts on “Small Talk with a Stylist”

  1. Can really identify with this, Carly. I go to Patty’s stylist for my haircuts. Due to my “receding hairline” I kid her about my visit being like a sports team having a bye week. She stretches it out to a half hour so we can chat.

    I am unable to wear my hearing aids because they are behind the ear type and interfere with the haircut. Not that they help much anyway ( won’t get on my soapbox about this again.) So, like you, I try to read her lips when she is facing me and look at her in the mirror when she is in back of me. She talks rather fast and trails off at the end of her sentences so I have to remind her about that. She is very understanding and says her father and a couple other customers are hearing impaired as well.

    So now that you are the newest superpower action hero will there be a movie soon? “The Adventures of Lip Reader Girl!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Al. Thanks for the comment. Haha, yes, hairdressers really seem to like to talk don’t they! I’m glad your stylist is understanding. I think people just tend to forget don’t they – best to keep reminding them!
      Ooh I’d love to be in a superhero movie!! …you never know, it could happen one day!
      Hope the writing is going well and that butler isn’t getting up to too much mischief!
      Take care
      Carly

      Liked by 1 person

  2. That really is the thing, isn’t it? Being able to communicate in a high sound environment. I know exactly how profound it is to participate in this formerly normal activity. Thank you as always for sharing your stories. Happy holidays and happy new year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Michael and thank you for your comment. Yes, I find that any situation with background noise makes communication difficult – it can be really frustrating! Happy Christmas and new year to you too!
      Best wishes
      Carly

      Like

  3. Thanks Carly – wasn’t that interesting? Imagine the chances of meeting a hair stylist who had experienced hearing loss! So glad that it boosted your confidence too!
    Xx Tricia

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

    ________________________________

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Superwoman ! Awesome ! You will be able to “listen into” secret conversations while wearing your pants outside of your jeans, firing lasers from your bra. lol. Great post and well written dear Carly 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry I haven’t commented in a while Carly. I read this in my email and never made it over.
    I have been meaning tell you for the longest time, you mentioned that you felt staying inside and not getting out much makes your balance worse…not your words, sorry. That is right. If you can get to Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy it could really help. It made a huge difference in my life. If you can’t there are some good videos on YouTube showing some of the exercises.
    Also…different thing. I had a cyst removed from my scalp that was pressing on my CI a bit, and wasn’t able to wear my CI on that ear for over a month. I don’t have the greatest hearing anyway, but not hearing on one side at all was so confusing. All my sounds seemed to come from my hearing side, left, even when they were on my right. I kept thinking about you and how I had a little taste of your world.
    About this post am completely deaf at then sylist it can be an amazing experience or a horrible experience. Depends on the person. I had one that was really mean. If she hadn’t started already I would have left. My husband was waiting for me and she said she was nasty. Now I’m more selective on who I see. I spend more, but it’s worth it.

    I hope your Holliday was joyous. and the New Year brings you magic.
    love Wendy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Wendy

      Happy New Year! It is so lovely to hear from you 🙂
      I’m also sorry that I haven’t visited your site for a while, and I’ll be over soon!
      Your comment about the vestibular rehabilitation has filled me with hope! I am actually scheduled to start a two week course of this therapy in a weeks time. I am a bit behind on my blog posts, but will write about the therapy and whether it helps me or not. I am feel really positive about it, and am very glad I have been offered it.
      I hope your scalp is better after having the cyst removed. Your comment about how all the sound seemed to be coming from your hearing aid side is exactly how it is for me! It’s hard to understand unless you’ve actually experienced it, isn’t it!
      I’m sorry you have had bad experiences at the stylist. I haven’t had anyone been mean, but I have had some really difficult times with communication, where I have no idea what the stylist is saying which makes me feel awkward. I too spend more for a hair cut. I only have my hair cut when I visit England, and so I can afford the treat 🙂
      Thank you again for your positive comment Wendy ❤
      Wishing you lovely things this year!
      Love Carly

      Like

      1. Oh, I’m so happy to hear you are going to VRT!! I can’t remember how long I went, but if you do your homework I think 2 weeks will be very beneficial, and I know you will.
        Love Wendy 🤟

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s