You aren’t deaf you just aren’t paying attention


How often have deaf, deafened, hard of hearing people had this said to them? I know I have and more so when I didn’t know I had a hearing loss.  My school reports often said variations on ‘Could do better’,’ must pay attention’, ‘grasshopper mind’ ‘poor recall’ – do they sound familiar? Need I go on?  It’s all part of the you can’t be deaf you are  stupid/rude/insolent combo.

This post was prompted by the comments to Jenn’s post on My Muskoka where Yogi commented that

……I don’t know. I have seen full grown adults start checking emails during meetings and then suddenly go, “what did you say, demanding that we retrace items that they missed while being distracted……

and Jenn replied …. Ah, Yogi. That is just bad manners or stupidity. I can check e-mail and listen to a meeting! If I am chairing a meeting and they ask, I boldly say we are moving on!……

Now I think that that behaviour is typical of hearing loss and not bad manners or stupidity. It may be that but neither bad manners nor stupidity mean that you can no longer hear when you are doing something else.  So of course I commented

Actually it may be hearing loss. I can’t hear without concentrating and without my CI I have to look at the person. Of course my deafness is an extreme example as I can’t even make notes at a meeting but someone not hearing when they were concentrating on another task that uses the language centres of the brain implies that their hearing is not what it could be.

I don’t check emails or anything else in a meeting but I do get distracted and if I do miss something I ask for it to be repeated. I would be appalled if the Chair refused to allow clarification….

Jenn has replied to my comment on her blog  by making a comment on another post on this blog  and as I find that rather confusing I have brought all the comments together here

Jenn’s reply was

Thanks for commenting on my blog post. I can see the difference between people not hearing and people not paying attention, Mog. For sure.

My S.O. has a hearing loss of 30%. All his life. It’s why he didn’t do all that well in French school (gov’t and all!).
I am very aware, as both parents had hearing aids, too. The people who sit in meetings on computers and don’t pay attention are much different and stick out like sore thumbs. That said, I got in trouble at being at a conference, and researching a point a speaker made. I was told off after the meeting for being on the computer. I can listen to someone and type, and follow what they are saying!

Is it really possible to tell the difference between lack of attention and hearing loss? I know I can’t, I couldn’t tell that I had a hearing loss and used to believe people telling me that I wasn’t paying attention, that I was stupid. If someone had thought a little beyond the stupid and lack of attention labels then perhaps my hearing loss would have been diagnosed sooner?

I have to take issue with this percentage hearing loss description too. I have never had a diagnosis in percentages, when I ask audiologists where this comes from they tell me that it’s lack of understanding  of the way hearing loss is diagnosed. I’ve blogged about this before. Hearing loss is measured in decibels, the decibel scale is logarithmic so a loss of 20 dB is 100 times greater than a loss of 10dB.

Sorry Jenn, but I think you are very very mistaken, well meaning  but mistaken


2 responses »

  1. From what I can see your comment was totally ignored, and no one acknowledged you.

    Like you say that person may be deaf, and not distracted. I could have had the word easily distracted by Mum, if she wanted, but thankfully she thought to herself I may have a hearing problem. Unfortunately she did not say anything till I did something about, I don’t know how long after, before I even was aware there was a problem my self.

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