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The Meeting in Which I Struggled to Hear Anyone and I Knew I Was in Trouble from the Start



Recently I was in a work meeting where I could barely hear a word anyone was saying and I knew I was in big trouble. It was kind of the perfect storm of hearing problems.

The meeting was somewhere I'd never been before, new building and new meeting room, so I had no idea what the acoustics would be like. There were roughly 16 people in the meeting, of which I only knew 2, so I didn't know how loud/clear people spoke beforehand - of the two people I did know, one speaks really fast and is difficult to understand anyway. I'd left my phone on a desk in a different room so I couldn't adjust volume, base/mid/treble or programme settings during the meeting. I didn't know where to sit to hear the main talkers.

Perfect storm of hearing problems.

I couldn't prepare for the meeting, I didn't know the voices that would be there, didn't know where to sit, didn't know what the room would sound like and couldnt' adjust my aids to suit.

It went badly right from the start. I sat at the middle of a long table so I'd be central to everyone, but that didn't save me.

The person leading the meeting was at one end of the table, I struggled to hear him from the start and I very quickly lost the flow of what he was saying, I picked up bits but not enough to really get a handle on proceedings. As other people chipped in, I fared no better, they were basically whispering.

To be perfectlt honest with you, after a few minutes I'd lost my way so badly that I was crapping myself that someone would ask me something in context of the meeting and I'd have no clue what to say. Luckily I dodged that bullet and, as far as I know(!), I wasn't asked anything.

I came out of the meeting not really knowing much more than when I went in.

This situation doesn't happen to me often these days because my hearing aids work well and I make sure I am prepared as much as I can for meetings like this, i.e. where to sit, who talks quietly, etc. This one caught me unprepared and I suffered badly.

Of course, I should have taken my own advice. I've written on this website many time over the years that you should "let people know about your hearing loss". That's easy to do in a one-to-one conversation or in a small group, in a room of 16 people, most of who I didn't know it was a much tougher ask to stand up and say, "I can't hear a word anyone is saying". If you want to bring up your hearing difficulties then you have to do it quickly when the situation rises, I'd have to have said it just as the meeting was starting, once the conversation is 5 or 10 minutes in it would be even tougher to say, "I haven't heard a word you said in the last 10 minutes, I was just nodding along!".

Knocked confidence

Not being able to hear affected my confidence in the meeting very quickly, I shrank away from the meeting and was hoping the ground would swallow me up after 2 minutes, I couldn't wait to get out of there. I didn't feel I could speak up and offer anything about the meeting subject as I had no idea what had already been said, so to avoid saying something wrong or out of context, I said nothing.

A hearing problem can ruin you confidence and make you avoid people and conversation.

Not being able to hear in a meeting or other situation is a bit like a snowball rolling down a hill. The problem starts small, you miss a few words or a sentence. As the minutes tick by you miss more and lose your grasp of what's being talked about. Until before you know it, the snowball has gained momemtum and size and you are basically paralyzed from saying anything, you have no idea whats been said now or what has already been said.

If you are suffering with hearing problems, I feel for you

Normally I get on alright with my hearing, I have a severe loss but my hearing aids help me enough so that I'm happy in most communications, I get by. But when days like that meeting come around, that's when I remember just how awful not being able to hear is.

 

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