Previously, I’ve written about the challenges of the modern world and workplaces, and how frustrating it can be to be independent.
Throughout various points in my life, I have had so many people forget that I am deaf. They cover their mouth when they talk, or they say they will call me, or ask what my phone number is, and I have to remind them that I can’t hear on the phone (I can now, but with limited people) or that in noisy places, I need to lipread.
I used to take this as a good thing and think that it was nice people forget that I’m deaf, as it means I am treated as being “normal” (for want of a better word) and it made me feel that although it was hard work trying to keep up, I could carry on doing this successfully.
However, there have been instances lately, where I have struggled to see if this is a good thing or bad thing.
Firstly, through work, I regularly email about 50 or so people as part of my role as assistant project manager. Some emails are quite long and difficult, and often, game changing at short notice.
I often get replies from colleagues, wanting to talk the emails and workloads through and work out a plan, so they ask for my number. I feel bad that I can’t help on the phone, so I email explaining that I am deaf, and can’t use the phone, but on email and happy to help (or if it’s urgent, I can pass this on to another colleague).
Obviously, the above approach has to happen, and it’s about the project, rather than me, but sometimes it really makes me feel inadequate, and also feel that I am out of the loop, if they talk to the colleague as they may not be as close to the matter as I am, so I worry there may be misinterpretation or that they might agree plans that conflict with my timescales.
Secondly, with friends, as I have never specifically talked about my deafness when I meet them, some don’t really understand what it means or when it could be difficult for me to follow.
Recently, I was out with some school friends who have known for 14 years, and we were in a noisy bar, and I really struggled to follow them. I felt that I just couldn’t remind people about my deafness, just because we had been friends for so long, but then on the other hand, I felt annoyed that they had forgotten, because they have known me for so long!
I know it’s a Catch 22 situation and in a sense I am a victim of my own success, but sometimes it makes it hard for me to remind people, or to not take it personally that I can’t follow or help out when needed.
I am sure it’s not unusual to feel like this, but I feel that I struggle more with this now than I used to….
Tara Sethi is an Environmental Consultant working in the City of London, living in the Surrey countryside. She loves travelling, socialising and is passionate about charity work, having helped deaf charities for over 15 years. She is a profoundly deaf CI user.
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