Mastering the Art of Hearing:
A Guide for the Hearing Impaired in All of Us
The Elephant in the Room Experiment
Let’s be honest…we're all hard of hearing. I’ll say that again in case you didn’t hear it. We’re all hard of hearing.
Yes, even you…the guy in the back row who can chew ice and still hear a pin drop in the other room. The good hearing we’re talking about has little to do with the quality of the nerve endings in our ears, or the ability to tell consonant sounds apart. We’re talking about becoming masters of conscious listening—true understanding—which is something we can all attain, regardless of how sad our audiograms may look (I’ll show you mine if you show me yours).
Here are five experiments to bring better hearing and understanding into your life. It is written for those with or without hearing aids. Listen carefully, and you will hopefully find yourself in their message. Print the experiments out, tattoo them under your earlobes, and then apply them in your life until you can finally hear that metaphorical pin drop. The real pin doesn’t matter.
Experiment #1: You don't need to hear everything.
One of the most significant challenges to being hearing impaired is feeling that you’re missing something…that you’re isolated, alone, and the world is passing you by. As a card-carrying member of the hearing aid club, I used to get frustrated when I couldn't hear something happening around the house, or if I was at a restaurant and couldn’t hear the conversation at the end of the table. Then it dawned on me, did I really need to know that my wife couldn't find the Neosporin, or that she wanted one of the kids to pick up almond milk at the market? Even when I can hear the conversation, I forget it an hour later.
What a feeling it was to realize that I didn’t have to hear everything to be a part of everything. It’s not an easy lesson to master, and I’m still mastering it. But it’s worth the effort when you realize that mastery can only be achieved with living in the moment mindfulness, which is far more powerful than any words you might have missed.
And regardless of how well you hear, the lesson is the same. We don’t need to be a part of every conversation, a part of all the noise in the world—the mindless chatter and empty conversations that do nothing to make our lives better.
It’s about learning to become selective with our hearing. Choosing what words and messages we will allow into our lives. And this includes all those voices in our heads that say we’re not smart enough, rich enough, young enough…good enough. This week, make a conscious decision to listen only to the things that matter.
You’ll know what they are when you hear them.
Experiment #2: Ask for help
(If you haven’t read The Courage to Ask For Help, check it out now).
If you are even the slightest bit hard of hearing, get your ears checked. Today. And statistically speaking, most of us are in denial about our hearing issues. The sooner you identify your hearing problems, the faster and more effectively you can get long-term help. Don’t let your ego get in the way of a better quality of life. And it is a better quality of life. Also, for those with hearing aids that frustrate them, see if there is a better model or a way to maximize the performance of the ones you currently own.
And, for the record, getting help isn’t only about putting on hearing aids. It’s about moving in, getting closer, and asking someone to speak louder or to move their hands away from their mouths so you can hear better. Not everyone you talk to has a copy of your audiogram. They don’t know you can’t pick up every word they’re saying. And, yes, my friends, we live in a world of low-talking mumblers and ice chewers. A world where everyone is Scottish.
Asking for help requires the courage to speak up and be heard. It’s saying, “I’m hard of hearing…can you say that again? Can we turn off the music? Shall we step outside where I can hear better?” And don’t be so serious about asking for help either. Make a joke of it if you can. Treat it with lightness. Others will follow your lead. But also be strong and confident in who you are and your limitations. And if the people you’re talking to don’t want to accommodate, I guarantee you this: they weren’t worth hearing in the first place.
And for those who hear just fine, the same thing goes. If you don’t understand something someone said (and it happens all the time), don’t let your ego allow it to slide. Ask for help and clarification. Seeking to understand those around you is a sign that you care. It will not only make you more human; it will also improve your relationships at home and in the workplace.
Experiment #3: Talk less.
Your mother was right. You shouldn’t talk with your mouth full. Or listen. And we all do it. Its called hogging the conversation, also known as the “all about me” syndrome—monopolizing the conversation with what we’re doing, what we believe, our problems, and our accomplishments. And be warned, this “all about me” affliction comes disguised in many shapes and forms, like:
- Interrupting someone to make your point, or making arguments in your head before the other person is done talking.
- Filling in the blanks of a conversation because you’re too impatient to let others finish their thought.
- Judging or dismissing someone else’s opinions, and even worse, telling people what they really mean, or what they should think and believe.
- Hearing only what you want to hear.
If any of this is you (and at one time or another, it’s all of us), it doesn’t matter how state-of-the-art your hearing aids are (or your own ears), you’ll never turn hearing into understanding. You’ll only hear words.
Experiment #4: Embrace the silence.
Most of us avoid silence. It’s tough being left alone with only our thoughts. It can be eerie, isolating, and uncomfortable. So, we turn on the noise. Raise the volume. Distract. But, once we embrace the silence, the stillness can become engaging, even welcoming and beautiful. But we need to train ourselves. It doesn’t come easy.
Take time this week to turn off the sound in as many ways as you can. Less conversation, TV, music, and empty chatter. Look for places to be alone. Seek quiet and stillness more often. No matter where you are on the hearing spectrum, embrace silence as an avenue to hear more. Be grateful for the solitude, then allow the silence to guide you to a deeper place.
Experiment #5: Learn other ways to communicate.
There is a voice that doesn't use words.”
Sound is great, but so is body language, touch, love, enthusiasm, and joy. These emotions (energy) are spoken without words. To master this language is to master the hidden nuances of life—to find the pearl inside the oyster. And you don't need ears to tap into this conversation. You need awareness. Strive to hear in as many different ways as you can. Find connections and patterns. Use your eyes, your heart, and your intuition. Make it your mission to discover this new language—the universal language we all hear.
Ultimately, these five experiments are a call to action. They are a challenge for us all to transform our relationship with hearing. More than that, they are a challenge that will allow us to turn our limitations into a whole new level of understanding—one that will help us hear what truly matters.
It’s called turning hearing into art.
Please let us know what you heard from this post. We’re listening.