COVID-19 brings challenges for Hard of Hearing Individuals

As you can see, I have avoided any mention of COVID-19 here in the last several months since the situation has begun developing. Based on the things that I was seeing, people were overwhelmed with all the misinformation, fear, frustration, and anger. It was too chaotic, too uncertain a time to have a conversation about this.

But now I break my silence because I feel it’s important to get these words out.

I’ve been one of the fortunate ones, with a job that allowed me to work from home since the middle of March, just as the whole COVID hurricane hit New York City. Unlike many people, I found going to a full time work-from-home schedule actually delightful, and within a week I realized why I enjoyed it so much.

The pure, blissful silence.

Aside from the construction work outside my window, there’s absolutely nothing competing for my attention. No one is having chit-chats, the office phones are not ringing, people aren’t opening doors and drawers every so often, and the management isn’t talking or screaming into their phones. People aren’t coming up to me to ask questions or give me their perspective or commentary—if they want to do that, they have to send me a message now. Most of all, I’m not having conversations with my investigators over all of that useless noise. Instead, we’re able to have conversations on the phone, in silence.

What it made me realize was that most of the energy that I was using throughout my day in the office was expanded on singling out the pieces of conversation that wasn’t necessary from what was. 8 hours a day, five days a week, I’d be doing mathematical calculations in my brain to filter out the noise that is useless from the noise that is important. Think of it like you want to focus on one instrument in a song, and try filtering out the rest of the music.

It’s EXHAUSTING!

With all the work from home, I’m starting the day at the same time, but I actually now have more time to myself since I’m not commuting. And since I’m not exhausted when I’m done with the work now, I’m able to focus on other things that I want to achieve with my life and time. To be honest, I find more positives working from home than going into the office.

That said, there’s one thing that has been a negative experience for me as a hard of hearing person, and it has nothing to do with long lines, un-stocked shelves, closed locations, or even the inability to go anywhere freely.

No, the problem is the masks. I understand why we need them, and wholeheartedly support their usage, but I also struggle in understanding anything anyone says. Firstly, it muffles everything that the person says, so it’s hard to hear. Secondly, I rely heavily on lip-reading to serve as a way of reinforcing what I am hearing. It’s the only way that I’m 100% sure of what is being said to me without relying on others to communicate for me.

Alas, because of this situation, I’m now having to find different methods of communicating, and people aren’t exactly patient when I want to type something out on a phone. People are also not willing to remove the masks, even momentarily, just so that I can read their lips. This will be a problem that all hard of hearing individuals struggle with if we’re required to wear masks every day after we are able to return to a semblance of normalcy, and honestly, fighting for our right to be treated in a way that is beneficial for us is getting really tiring.

So if you ever encounter a hard of hearing individual, be patient and help them help you.

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