Learning to Listen

Do you think it’s strange when I say, that someone actually taught me how to listen?

lis·ten

/ˈlisən/

Verb:
Give one’s attention to a sound.

hear

/hi(ə)r/

Verb:

1. Perceive with the ear the sound made by (someone or something).

2. Be told or informed of.

I strongly believe that hearing and listening are two different things. It takes a mental effort to listen. A lot of people hear, but don’t listen. So next time, pay attention to what you’re hearing!

When I got my brand new BAHA, everyone was over the moon! I mean literally! Everyone wanted to see what it was and how I would get on it with it (I was only 5)! There is a tape recording somewhere in this house of me talking with my new BAHA. According to my parents, it shows how much my speech and confidence increased.

At school, I was lucky enough to have a Teacher of the Deaf (TOD). She was a lovely lady, and if I had the chance, I would very much like to say a huge thank you to her, for giving my listening skills! I’ve had a few TODs who have all been excellent, but the 1st one has stuck in my mind (and heart) ever since.

There were many exercises she made me do. But a few stuck in mind. I remember a few times we had a session in the ‘music room’-a room full of musical instruments where we used to have our music lessons in primary school. A couple of times, I would have to close my eyes whilst she played a random tune on a random instrument, and then I’d have to say what I thought the instrument was. The piano, the xylophone, triangle, drums etc…I never knew what it meant then, but it helped me learn what they were.

I must point out one thing here, I only have one BAHA. You have two ears, so why not have two hearing aids? Two ears help with directionality i.e. you can tell where sound is coming from. There have been many maintenance issues with my one BAHA (which I’ll explain in a later blog post) which is the main reason for just my one BAHA. I may have another BAHA in the future, but not just yet. Anyway…the reason I mention this is because, having one hearing aid means that you can’t really tell where sound is coming from. You call from behind to the left, I look to my right (which is the side of my BAHA).

Another purpose of the task, is to help you to learn where the sound is coming from. I’ve always struggled, but it gets better as time goes on. Of course, people with one hearing ear or one hearing aid will never be great at this.

The other major life skill that my TOD taught me, is NOT to always lipread. This is very important for note taking in class. She used to cover her mouth when she spoke to me and I had to carry on the conversation, or write down what she was saying. (It wasn’t as harsh as I’m making it sound!)

People with hearing loss automatically learn to lipread, I unconsciously do it now, if I can’t understand what someone is saying, I’ll stare intensely at their lips until I do! This also happens when I know I must listen to every single word that is being spoken. It’s perfectly natural, I know. I sometimes catch myself out when I can’t see what someone is saying, for example at the dentist who wears a mask, or if someone talking with their back to me, or in a meeting when I can’t stretch half way across the table to look at them.

A tip I’ve learned in meetings is to sit where you can see everyone! You can see who’s talking and when, also very important when minute taking. The 1st time I did this I thought, a deaf girl taking minutes – this will be interesting. But I did it!

All of this happens when I have my BAHA on. When I don’t, e.g. after waking up or just getting out this shower, my family know to get my attention and look at me before they start speaking. I can hear very little without my hearing aid, but it’s good enough to hear the fire/security alarm, but not the wake-up alarm 😐 I have a vibrating alarm clock for that purpose, unfortunately!

My good friends and family all know and understand my hearing loss, and I’m not shy about telling the whole wide world about it either. It hasn’t stopped me yet and I’m not about to let it stop me.

I love my BAHA for giving me the opportunity to be able to listen and I thank the lovely TOD and my family who ‘taught’ me how to listen. Listening is a very important life skill and one that should never be undervalued.

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