After my eventful week I thought I would pass on a few snippets on what it’s really like to travel with a hearing loss. It’s been an insightful week and I have come to the conclusion that there are major pros and cons to travelling without fully functioning ears.
Darkness is inconvenient
Being in the dark is suddenly a massive pain in the ass. If you’re walking anywhere with friends after the sun goes down you will walk in silence. No pleasantries and chit chat shall ensue because you have no idea what is going on. They could be scouting out the best place to hide your body and you would be none the wiser merrily strolling along by their side.
Meeting new people isn’t as interesting any more
OK, I realise this may sound harsh but it’s true. You can’t get into a really interesting conversation with someone who, upon discovering you have a hearing loss, starts to talk to you like a 5 year old and seems to forget, hearing loss aside, you’re still a functioning adult with a brain. New people just don’t tend to be exciting, it becomes a chore having to explain that you can’t hear anything to which they respond
“What? Nothing at all?” which makes me want to retort “yes, numb nuts, that’s why I just said I can’t hear anything”
It’s a tricky situation because at least they are making an effort but when someone turns to you and says really over the top (imagine hand signals where the dots are, if you please) “I’m… going… to go and… look for… Jess”. Just tap me on the shoulder and say you’re going to look for Jess. I will understand you, I’m not an idiot. However I will contradict myself slightly in the next paragraph.
Group situations are frustratingly difficult
When you are talking one-on-one with someone lip reading can be relatively easy and conversation can be decent. Throw in a third person and you can just about keep up. When you travel, there will be many times where you will be in a group. Now is the time to just forget it; with everyone overlapping and interrupting each other it’s a struggle to keep up with who is talking let alone what they are actually bloody saying.
You have a major advantage at bars
Ah, look! It’s not all doom and gloom, there’s more to me than that! Going out to a bar is a doddle because everyone is in the same boat and no one can hear anything! Hurrah! Happy days! They all know how you feel. Have yourself a drink.
Shared dorms are blissful
Cheap, but not always cheerful, shared dorms. Anyone who has travelled has seen their fair share of good and bad ones. As I discovered on my second night in shared dorms, snorers are not an issue. Isn’t that fantastic?! Poor Jess was kept awake by Bean for quite a while and I was just lying l there revelling in silence. Smug as a bug in a rug.
Everywhere is quiet
Spending a day lounging at the pool blissfully unaware of the planes flying overhead, air con whirring and traffic noise is lovely. Everywhere you go is serene… So, naturally, the next point must be….
EVERYWHERE IS BLOODY QUIET!
I mean everywhere, I went to the Muay Thai boxing. There was probably a lot of crowd noise and heavy music playing but as far as I was concerned there were two people standing in a ring trying to punch and kick each other in total silence. Very bizarre.
No concept of background noise
This is something I definitely took for granted with my hearing aid. You have no idea how loud you need to speak to be heard. Ah, hearing people, you never thought of that one now did you? You have no clue if you can speak at a normal volume and be heard or if you will be drowned out by something in the background you hadn’t even realised was there; a pneumatic drill for example. Equally you could be relatively near a road and think “road traffic, let’s be clever and speak up” and all of a sudden you look like a wally because it’s not actually that loud and you’re screaming at everyone for no reason.
Long journeys can get very boring
Pretty self explanatory. You can’t hear so no music and, as discussed, group situations are difficult and conversation is tiring. Have a good book ready, or write a blog entry like I’m doing. It passes time well I suppose
Crossing roads becomes death defying
You may think I’m exaggerating but I’m really not. When you can’t hear what is coming you suddenly feel very vulnerable. In Asia this is ever more terrifying because they tend to drive slightly like maniacs. I’m sorry but they do. No one stops at pedestrian crossings ever. I’m English… this concept is madness!
Language barriers multiply
As if we didn’t have enough problems trying to communicate with people who speak a different language anyway let’s throw in the fact that one of you can’t hear as well! Doesn’t that make it more interesting?! If you think lip reading is hard try lip reading someone Thai trying to speak English. I dare you.
The world is still beautiful
Pros, cons, highs, lows, whatever. The world is still beautiful. It’s that simple. I love it and I always will whether I lose my hearing, my limbs, my mobility, my sight, there’s always some other way to see the world. The smells, the atmosphere, the feeling of different cities underneath your feet. It’s incredible and if you haven’t gone to explore it yet then why the hell not?