I had a review just last week with my boss and someone we brought in to help our company run smoother. He’s basically an industry expert, though more for design than marketing, and yet when he read the last point on the “What I’d Like Sarah To Start Doing” section, I wanted to scream. And cry. Maybe both.
Lunch is not something I hate, but when he read off that my coworkers felt strange and hurt that I hadn’t eaten lunch with them on a regular basis, I began to wonder if they realized why I hadn’t.
My desk was my happy place at work, a place where I can zone out and focus in on creating content for a multitude of clients. My computer doesn’t talk nor does it ask me to, so I never had to worry about listening. The phone never seemed to work, so it never rang, and that simply made my desk all the more welcome.
I didn’t have hearing aids when I started with Insite Advice last year, and I didn’t even get them until this past Christmas. I didn’t get to wear them at work until January, and even then I didn’t wear them all the time.
For someone with hearing loss, having a one-on-one discussion can be exhausting, so when I attempted lunch the first time with my coworkers, all six of us jammed around an odalisque oak table and chattering away, I was dead tired within 10 minutes. They all talked at once, not over each other per se, but each carrying on a conversation with someone else. Two to three conversations would be going on at once, and when you combine the conversation, laughs and exclamations of six people with a room full of hard surfaces, wood floors and a ceiling that invites echo, well it’s basically chaos.
I learned after trying to eat with them all a few times, that it was easier to sit alone at my desk. I wouldn’t look stupid missing a word or question from a coworker, and I wouldn’t look rude when I didn’t hear them but they thought I ignored them. I wouldn’t feel left out when I got lost in a conversation or missed the punchline of a joke, and I wouldn’t feel tired, stressed and depressed after a 30-minute lunch break. Lunch became something I avoided, it became something I dreaded.
My hearing made it miserable to be normal, and it isolated me from my friends. It kept me from forming stronger relationships at work, and it made me an outsider and shredded my self-confidence.
I have hearing aids now, and while I don’t always eat lunch with everyone, I try to. It’s not easy even with my hearing aids, so I often sit quietly and try to focus on one person each time. And even when I forget to wear my hearing aids (or purposefully leave them at home because I just can’t stand wearing them that day), I still try to eat with everyone, or at least not alone at my desk.
It’s hard, but I am trying. It’s not easy or comfortable for my ears, but it’s definitely healthier for myself and more enjoyable than before.
Hearing loss can do many things to your life. It can make life harder, less enjoyable, and it can deprive you of opportunities. It can also isolate you, destroy your friendships and make others view you in a way you are neither intending nor wanting.
It sucks you know, to be the only one in the office with hearing loss, but I’ve realized I can either let it keep sucking and live at my desk or I can try to have the best time I can with my hearing aids.
Let’s just say that while it isn’t perfect, there’s dust accumulating on my desk right now.