Sound Advice by Ruth D. Bernstein

Ruth Bernstein, Consumer Advocate

Like many people with hearing loss, I read a lot because that is my preferred mode of learning. I recently read a story on the Chabad website, written by Rabbi Sholom Goodman.

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The Rabbi writes movingly about his communication experiences as someone who stutters. He focuses on the need for empathy, resilience and advocacy. While hearing loss and stuttering present very different challenges, I was struck by some of the similarities between his communication struggles and my own, as well as the feelings they elicit. Empathy and sympathy for ourselves and for everyone with any kind of disability are welcome traits to develop.

Everyone who has a hearing loss would appreciate it if speakers maintain eye contact, listen carefully, don’t interrupt and wait until we are finished speaking. One of my favorite lines is “Don’t speak until you can see the whites of my eyes.”  And the words I don’t want to hear are “never mind.”

Hearing loss can be emotionally overwhelming. We may doubt our ability to do things or feel we want to retreat to a quiet space and ignore our communication problems. It can be scary to go into a situation where you know in advance you are going to have trouble understanding important information. Being resilient by learning coping techniques and stating our needs can help overcome fear and make our lives much easier.

People appreciate my ability to share my hearing loss experiences in a positive way. As your ability to state your needs improves, and you have them recognized and acted on, you will find you want to share what works for you with others wrestling with the same problems, as I do in variety of ways, including my membership in HLAA-NYC and writing this blog.

I recently rediscovered this Camus quote, which I like a lot:

In the midst of winter, there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger — something better, pushing right back.

It takes a LOT of courage to acknowledge our hearing problems and push back, especially if we feel stigmatized, ashamed or ignored. It can help if you find a mentor, someone who will listen to you, understand your problems, advise you how to proceed and encourage you to move forward. CHC and HLAA-NYC can help you find support.

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I look forward to hearing about your experiences.

Warmest wishes,

Ruth D. Bernstein
Consumer Advocate