Being deaf in my right ear makes for some socially awkward moments. They often occur on airplanes, especially if I’m sitting on the left side of the airplane. Planes, even before takeoff, have plenty of background noise, so I often don’t hear people talking to me. I figure if I’ve stowed my stuff and have my seatbelt on, they’ll come over if it’s important.
Well, normally they do. In business class however, they ask you want you want for dinner before you take off. Even though I ask for the right side of the plane aisle, I almost always get the left side of the plane aisle somewhere. Recently, I was in the middle, on the left aisle. The flight attendant had asked the guy to my right, and, I guess, had asked me. I didn’t hear her and kept reading. Finally, she raised her voice, and said, “Ms. Rothman?” I looked up to my left, saw no one, and looked back at my book.
“Ms. Rothman?” louder now. I looked up to the left front and back this time, still saw no one, and thought to turn to the right. There she was, with a pen.
“Did you call me?”
“Yes, several times. Didn’t you hear me?”
“Nope, deaf on that side. What would you like?”
I managed to deflate a perfectly happy person to a sad crumpled shell. She almost cried. I felt terrible. She felt terrible. She told me so. I told her not to worry. How could she have known? It’s not like I wear a sign. I’d already folded up my cane. I don’t look any different than other people.So I told her I had perfect hearing on my left side and that my husband and I fight about the TV volume, just like other people do.
Last week, I was at a salad buffet in NYC, getting my lunch. A gentleman wanted to move around me, and I suspect by the tone in his voice when I finally did hear him, he had asked me to move several times. “Ma’am, could you please move?” By now, he sounded quite frustrated.
“Absolutely. Let me hang on here, and let me get my cane”
He pushed by me and my cane tripped him because it was over my left arm, pointing out. I heard him mutter under his breath, because by now he was on my left side, “Are you deaf or something?”
I replied, “Caught it in one. But just on my right side. So with the noise in here, I didn’t hear you at all on my right side. But I can hear you now. Are you ok, or did my cane get you?” He just took off, shaking his head.
A few days ago, I went to Walgreen’s to refill a prescription we are experimenting with for my vertigo. Since it’s a monthly prescription, I thought there might be trouble, and when I went to pick it up, the pick-up lady said, “mumble mumble March 18.” Well, that’s what I heard. I said, “I can’t hear you, can you please repeat that?” and angled towards her with my left ear, and I heard the same thing again.
Now here’s where things get tricky. I thought I just asked her to repeat it again. But afterwards, the pharmacist came over, because I still could not understand, and she raised her voice, so I could hear, and explained that my prescription couldn’t be refilled because it was too early. I explained I was leaving the country, she said she would ask for an override, which we got. Then she told me to stop yelling at the pick-up lady. I was surprised. I asked, “Am I yelling at you?” She said yes. I told her I had no idea I was yelling.
The problem with background noise (in the Walgreen’s, it’s music), is that it distorts the total sound for me. I have no idea how much sound there is. I don’t want to yell at people. I don’t want to make people uncomfortable when I tell them I’m deaf in my right ear.
How do I help people realize that I cannot hear on one side? If you have suggestions, I’m all one ear.