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Living with Single Sided Deafness

Posted March 9th, 2013 at 10:22 AM by Swamper
"Unilateral hearing loss (UHL) or single-sided deafness (SSD) is a type of hearing impairment where there is normal hearing in one ear and impaired hearing in the other ear."


I'll walk into a room, and my head begins to spin. I've gotten used to the sensation, and there is a checklist that I progress through whenever I enter a new room.

1) How many people? How much background noise? Where is the main group?

2) Is there anyone here I know, or anyone that looks like they may want to talk? I need to keep track of them so that if they come up on my bad side I'll know they're there.

3) What's the layout of the room? How are the people grouped up? Where can I go where I will be able to participate and interact the best?

While I'm going through this, my head is on a swivel. I have no hearing in my left ear, so I have to constantly turn my head to figure out where certain sounds are coming from. I stand apart from everyone, somewhat self-consciously. It's hard to find a place to jump in when I only hear half of a conversation. I look around, desperately hoping to see someone I know.

Lost in thought, I feel a slight vibration on my left side. I ignore it at first, figuring it's just the background noise, but then I get the sense that someone's standing there. I turn my body around completely so that I'm facing the person speaking to me, a short brunette girl I'd seen around school.

She begins to speak, and I focus on her lips. I can generally understand what someone's saying if I'm focused on them, but reading their lips gives me a greater sense of accuracy and a better sense of control. If you watch lips, they really are marvelous. It's almost artistic the way they move and shape sounds. Maybe I've developed an appreciation for them because I've always relied on them, but in my mind, the human lips are one of the most beautiful things on the planet.

But this girl is chewing gum, which somewhat distorts the natural movement of the lips. I try to keep most of my attention on her eyes, but my eyes flit down to her lips quite a bit. That's caused more than my fair share of problems with girls thinking I was looking at something else, but this girl didn't seem to notice.

"Are you in world? I called your ame like five tim!"

My mind frantically worked to fill in the gaps. This is where my lip reading comes in handy as well. The background noise seemed to creep in between her words, muddling and mixing them up. But I'd had practice, and after a while I begin to predict what people will say in certain situations. I figured this girl had been calling my name for a while, so she would remark on it as a way to break the ice. I was expecting the words she said, which made it easier to understand them.

"Sorry," I say, probably too quietly. I always speak to softly in loud situations and too loud in quiet situations. Another side effect, I suppose. I correct myself and raise the volume. "I don't think I've met you. What's your name?"

She responds, and I catch none of it. A group walked past us right when she responded, and their voices overwhelmed me. "I'm sorry," I said with an apologetic grin, "can you repeat that?"

"Umber." she says, louder this time.

"Amber?" I ask, thinking Umber isn't a very common name.

She smiled and nodded, and relieved, I smiled back. It may seem like a little thing, but in an environment like this one, every act of communication is precious. She looked at me expectantly, and I tried to think of something to say. I asked her about school, and we struck up a conversation. This whole time, I was steering her away from the crowds, back to the quieter areas. In a quiet environment, one on one, I could hear just fine. But the louder or more crowded the situation, the worse I became.

We were engaged in a pleasant conversation when a large group approached us. Unsure of what to do, I hung back as my new friend went up to them. I surmised that this group was Amber's friends, and I wasn't sure what I should do. Go with her and try to engage with the group, which experience told me would be futile and embarrassing, or hang back and wait for someone else to approach me?

Amber turned around and waved for me to join them, so I did, rather reluctantly. I took up my normal position on the far left side of the group so that I could hear everyone. It's the best place for me to be, hearing wise, but it kinda makes me the outsider in the group. But Amber grabs my arm and pulls me to the center.

Suddenly I'm awashed in a sea of sound. It's almost too much for me to handle, but I force myself to focus. I tried to gather what they were talking about, but I could only catch half of the conversation. Honestly, it was probably less than half. I laughed when everyone else laughed and smiled a lot. I've found that people like it when you smile. Usually. There was this one time when a friend was telling me about breaking up with his girlfriend, and all I got was "girlfriend" so I smiled and laughed. Bad move.

Amber's noticed that I'm not talking much. I wouldn't be surprised if my eyes were all crazy and shifty as well. There were so many mouths, so many noises, it was impossible for me to focus on any one.

She grabbed my hand. "Okay?"

I focused in on her and her lips- she was asking if I was okay. "I just need some water." I said.

"I with."

She'll come with me. Okay, fine. I probably should tell her about my problem. I've had this conversation hundreds of times, but it still makes me uncomfortable. It's hard to explain to someone that hasn't experienced how hard it can be. But as we got to a quieter spot, I explained what was going on to her, and she took it in stride. She didn't seem to pity me or anything, which is what I prefer. She just said it was okay and we could hang out some other time in a quieter venue.

Relieved, I slipped out of the party and back to my car. Another social situation conquered, even with my disability.
Total Comments 7


Joseph Sweeney's Avatar
Wow, sorry to hear that, swamper. Is it possible to get your hearing restored?

Was this where you got the inspiration for your recent CoN RP?
Posted March 9th, 2013 at 04:14 PM by Joseph Sweeney Joseph Sweeney is offline
Swamper's Avatar
There is a prelimenary thing being tested, but it's a good ways off. And yes, my CoN RP kinda came from that. Especially the music part, because I have been gifted with a bit of musical ability, but it's stunted because I hear in mono. My voice is monotone, and I can't sing. I hear music slightly different from everyone else, which is kinda weird. Sometimes, especially with sharps and flats, what sounds good to everyone else sounds really bad to me.
Posted March 9th, 2013 at 04:29 PM by Swamper Swamper is offline
Heroscaper Guy's Avatar
Sorry to hear that Swampert, hopefully your hearing loss will be able to be restored faster than you think. You will also be in my prayers Swampert.
Posted March 9th, 2013 at 05:23 PM by Heroscaper Guy Heroscaper Guy is offline
Updated March 9th, 2013 at 06:07 PM by Heroscaper Guy
Sylvano the Wasabus's Avatar
Me too! I also have a hard time in rooms with high ceilings, because the sound, which usually travels around to my good ear goes up instead and I miss most of the words. I lip read all the time too. And like you, group situations just don't work well for me. Or echoy places- because then I can't tell which direction the sound is coming from.
But there are some positives- I don't tell people I don't like and I miss what they're saying. If I sleep on my good ear there is complete silence, even when its noisy.
It's interesting the way one adapts and other people may notice and believe one is behaving oddly for different reasons. But I have always found that nice people will get to know you no matter what and jerks will always be jerks. And I can always turn my deaf ear to them....
Posted March 10th, 2013 at 05:23 PM by Sylvano the Wasabus Sylvano the Wasabus is offline
Joseph Sweeney's Avatar
@Heroscaper Guy
I believe it is pronounced Swamper.

I will continue to pray for you.
Posted March 10th, 2013 at 07:25 PM by Joseph Sweeney Joseph Sweeney is offline
Sherman Davies's Avatar
It sounds like you've done an amazing job adapting to your quirk, Swamper. Thanks for sharing your perspective with us.
Posted March 11th, 2013 at 12:38 PM by Sherman Davies Sherman Davies is offline
davidlhsl's Avatar
Thanks for providing an incredibly well written window into your world. You should let those around you know of your circumstance without feeling any embarrassment so they can accommodate. The insensitive ones that don't are best brought to your attention by their actions.
Posted March 11th, 2013 at 03:10 PM by davidlhsl davidlhsl is offline
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