Isolation hits when hearing goes
What’s it like to sit in ameeting or catch up with friends while struggling to hear? Reporter Jess Lee took part in the National Foundation for the Deaf’s Silent Leadership Challenge to experience the impact of hearing loss on everyday life.
It’s easier just to ignore you.
That’s what a friend says to me while I’m hearingimpaired for just one day.
I’m a bit taken aback when she says it but, to be honest, it’s actually easier for me to sit there and be ignored than to try to keep up with the conversation.
What’s harder to ignore though is the feeling of isolation.
I’m surrounded by workmates in a Kingsland bar while wearing noisecancelling ear protectors and I feel pretty alone.
When I signed up to take part in the Silent Leadership Challenge, I have to admit, I was more concerned about feeling ridiculous walking around in bright yellow earmuffs all day.
Participants, including corporate leaders and politicians nationwide, are asked to wear the earprotectors to simulate deafness while taking part in four challenges.
They must attend a team meeting, a one-on-one meeting, a social get-together and try watching television.
The feeling of isolation and frustration I experience during those challenges is a daily reality for the one in six New Zealanders who live with some type of hearing loss.
It is predicted that hearing loss will affect one in four of us by 2050 – a combined result of an ageing population and noise injury.
As I pull on my earmuffs at an editorial team meeting it’s giggles all-round. Yellow is clearly not my colour.
Once the meeting kicks off and more than one person joins in the conversation I’m lost pretty quickly. I find my mind wandering as I wait for a conversation to stop so I can try to pick up the next point.
When my editor starts talking while drawing on a whiteboard I’m totally out of the loop.
One of the aims of the challenge is to increase workplace understanding and empathy for those who are deaf impaired.
The first thing my fellow reporters ask is whether they should shout or exaggerate their mouth movements.
The National Foundation for the Deaf says no. It rec-
hearing- ommends people make their face and mouth clearly visible and be sure to gain the listener’s attention before speaking.
If only this could translate to television. Sitting down to watch the news turns into a game of charades.
Why on earth is a man blowing a French horn at some cows in the middle of a field?
What do Shania Twain and acres of land have in common? It must be overseas buyers snapping up Kiwi properties?
The challenge was an eyeopening experience and something I think everyone should try.
But it’s a huge relief to take those earmuffs off and I hope that by 2050 I’m not one of the one-in-four of us living with hearing loss.
Tuned out: Reporter Jess Lee dons noise-cancelling ear-protectors to go deaf for a day in the newsroom.