In treating hearing loss, I’ve found there’s a particular tendency–especially in men losing their hearing in late middle age–for patients to attempt to dominate the conversation. Trying to put myself in their place, questions seem dangerous, silence uncertain. Loss of communication can mean showing weakness, a loss of control, a change in one’s self-perception. This leads to fear of losing one’s place at work and in the family. Even a doctor treating their hearing loss is not safe, and so it’s easier to keep talking and mask the problem.
Certainly we’re all in danger of this, and I don’t just mean hearing loss. We all need help sometimes, but often in order to get it we have to let down our guard. We have to recognize our addiction to control and leave it at the door. That’s something that every truth-teller in history has struggled to impart to society.
But from the helper role, what do you do? Do you interrupt and shout louder? Do you remain silent until they’re ready to listen? Do you leave them there and move on? There’s no perfect answer. I suppose you trust their friends and family to bring them back, sometimes by guilt and sometimes by love.