LWHL Blog: Hearing loss and travel
Practicing techniques for dealing with hearing loss on a daily basis is difficult, especially in public in social situations. I’ve recently found that I’m much less consistent in asking for help communicating in these environments and I think this is partly due to my ability to use visual and contextual cues to keep up with the conversation.
On a recent trip to Mexico, I had a rude awakening. Whether it was communicating in Spanish or listening to heavily accented English, many of my bad listening habits were uncovered in a short amount of time. Since I’m not a native speaker of Spanish (in fact, really only an intermediate speaker), I wasn’t able to rely on the usual clues that help me stay with the conversation. As a result, I enjoyed many awkward moments for which I had very little ability to repair. The strange looks I received no doubt indicated that the story of the “extranjero loco” would be enjoyed by many family and friends.
Outside of the obvious challenge of communicating in another language, I hadn’t prepared myself to expressing that I had a hearing loss in Spanish and that I may need help communicating. In addition, the stigma of disability is much more powerful in Latin American culture than in the United States. This made it even more difficult to admit to hearing loss, let alone ask for appropriate accommodations. As the primary translator for my travel group, it could be a bit stressful.
In my daily life, I’m hyper-aware of situations in which I experience difficulty communicating. I’ve built a substantial arsenal of techniques and strategies for coping with them, and seem to do fine. In spite my success, recent experiences with hearing loss in a different language and culture has brought to light some areas that need improvement. I understand better how accepting our culture can be with respect to hearing loss and that I should feel comfortable asking for help when I need it, especially from family and friends. The experience has also illuminated the importance of preparation and practice, so that when the situation arises, I have no hesitation getting what I need to communicate effectively.
Submitted by Jason Smith