EDIT: Very good comment on safety from one of my readers May Wood. I’d add a comment on safety for those of us who have severe/profound loss and won’t make out a word of what is said/shouted without our aids in the event of an alarm or need to evacuate the pool – do inform the lifeguards so that, in an event, they can check you are complying.
In Part 1 of this article series we talked about the limitations of waterproof hearing aids. We learned to what extent hearing aids are waterproof and how to wear them as much as possible while we’re around the pool, but outside the water.
However, there will come a time when you actually want to swim, and you will have to take your hearing aids off.
So, how do you communicate without your hearing aids?
In this article, I want to talk about some tricks to help you communicate more effectively, avoid misunderstandings and—most importantly—stress.
First of all, let’s start with some safety
If you’re going to take off your hearing aids and leave them near the pool, make sure you place them somewhere dry and safe.
When I go to the pool or the sea, I always carry my hearing aids’ hard case and a dry bag like this one. For extra peace of mind, if you can, leave your belongings with someone you trust, making mention of the precious contents.
So, now that you know your hearing aids are in a safe place, you’re ready to go in for a swim.
If it’s going to be a social setting, it’s a good idea to take a little time to think about how much you can communicate without hearing aids.
Before you go into the water ask yourself these questions: can you handle a 1-1 conversation, if someone is near you and facing you? Do you have to completely rely on lipreading?
If your hearing loss is mild or moderate, you might be doing just fine even in a small group conversation, but if your hearing loss is more severe, you might only want to speak 1-1.
Being aware of what you’re capable of with your residual hearing is vital to explain to others what you can and cannot do and what they can do to help you communicate.
I, for example, have moderately severe hearing loss, and I know that I’m able to have a 1-1 conversation or even small group (3 people max) conversation if people are very close to me and are speaking very clearly, e.g. floating in the water together. But I know I can’t handle a group conversation on the beach in the dark.
A night around the campfire on the beach used to be my worst nightmare as a teenager, it was like trying to hear a conversation through a fish ball: you can see shapes of humans talking, but you can’t see their lips, you can hear some sound, but can’t understand their words.
It was so stressful, not because I couldn’t hear well, but because I didn’t know how to explain it to others.
Find a way to communicate your needs
Once you’ve figured out what you can and cannot do, you have to find an effective way of telling others how it all works.
If you can’t handle a group conversation, for example, try not to pretend you can hear everything. Just say you’re not wearing your hearing aids and you’ll “connect” a bit later.
I now use the time “alone” to relax, instead of stressing out while trying to catch everything people are saying.
If we don’t connect at all times with hearing people, Earth won’t stop spinning.
I know that when it’s new, some hearing-aid wearers find it difficult to speak up and let people know about their hearing situation. Some even feel embarrassed.
But, think about it…if someone asked you: “Hey, what does that ad say over there?” when you’re not wearing glasses, would you feel embarrassed or ashamed? Of course, not.
You’d probably say: “Sorry I can’t help you because I can’t see that far without my glasses…” Well, the same idea applies to HAs!
If you can’t hear, get into the habit of telling people that. But since hearing loss is more complex than wearing glasses, you want to be as specific as you can.
Some scripts you could use
“I have to rely on lipreading while I’m not wearing my hearing aids, so it’s important you face me. If you don’t face me when you’re speaking, I won’t catch what you’re saying”.
In a setting with people floating in the water in a big circle and having a conversation altogether, you can’t hear everything that’s being said, and suddenly they ask you a question, you could say: “Hey guys I can’t hear you without my super devices in my ears. I’ll catch up later when I can actually hear, so won’t make random comments!”
So, to recap, to have a stressless time in the water and to be sure you take on only as much as you can handle:
- Store your hearing aids in a safe and dry place before you go into the water
- Become aware of what you’re capable of without your hearing aids
- Be specific when explaining to other people what you can and cannot do
Remember: there’s nothing wrong with you. You can still have a lovely time at the pool even if you can’t hear well and chat at all times like other people do.
I believe that, even with hearing loss, we can do anything we want, but we need to adjust to the world (and the world to us) more often than hearing people need to.
It’s about finding your own, unique way of enjoying a time at the pool with friends. It’s not about doing things the same way hearing people do them.
See you next week,
P.S. One more thing: if you want to learn more about how you can too transform your life and hear better with hearing loss then sign up for my free newsletter!