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Sitting at the bar in a busy Mexican restaurant in Madrid, I realised just how lonely I was feeling.
Madrid is a great place to live and is a city full of people who enjoy eating out in the evenings. It can be difficult to get a table in a restaurant without making a booking, even on a weekday. This is how we came to be sitting at the bar. I had positioned myself so that my two friends were situated to the right of me – my ‘hearing’ side – so I had the best possibility of hearing them in this situation.
I don’t often go out during the evenings anymore, as I find restaurant noise difficult to be around, sometimes even painful. For three years I have been living with single-sided deafness and I am conscious of my hearing limitations. I knew that I was going to find it difficult to follow conversation amongst the background noise of music and people chatting. Still, I was feeling excited to be spending an evening in a nice restaurant with such a lively atmosphere and surrounded by the delicious rich aroma of Mexican food, which had enveloped us as we’d entered. We had ordered food to share, and it was going to be brought out to us slowly, one dish at a time. I was eager to start eating.
Both the restaurant and bar area were part of the same small space. As the customers consumed more food and drinks, the energy in the restaurant increased and people began to talk with exuberance; the noise levels steadily started to rise. I soon realised the extent of the communication difficulties I was going to have during this evening when, after speaking with me for a while, my friend next to me turned her body to face the other member of our group, during the course of conversation. I had been grasping at fragments of her words and sentences with determination, trying to make sense of them. I had been studying the shapes her lips were making to help give me some indication of what was being said. Now, looking at the side of her face and with no audible vocal clues, I was alone, and no longer part of the discussion.
I didn’t feel annoyed or even upset; I just felt resigned acceptance. Both members of the group were aware of my hearing difficulties. Of course, my friend was always going to need to turn her head away from me at some point. In fact, the conversation had started with her facing me. She was making sure both her companions were being addressed. But, this usually inclusive method of conversation had been complicated by my hearing loss, meaning that it was only possible for me to be involved in broken elements of the dialogue. If I had been with just one person, communication would have been much easier as I would have had the full advantage of always seeing my conversation partner’s face. Or, if we had been able to sit at a table, I could have sat opposite the third member of our group, enabling me to watch his reactions. I would have been able to study his facial expressions and follow the movement of his lips, and maybe, might even have caught some of the letter sounds and words he was saying.
In accepting my situation and realising my inability to successfully follow the conversation, my experience in the restaurant became one based on sights, smells and tastes. I concentrated on these senses which helped to divert my attention from the noise of raised voices. I noticed the decoration of the restaurant. I focussed on the black circular dish behind the bar, full of rock salt, with a peak in the middle, specially designed for coating salt to the rim of a margarita glass. I became lost in my observations. I watched as the bartender meticulously prepared drinks with concentration and care, rubbing lime around the rim of the glass and dipping it elegantly into the salt, so as to form an even rim of crystals. I observed the way he mixed cocktails, vigorously shaking a cocktail shaker, and then bending down to examine each drink carefully before sending them to customers. I noticed the small group of people working in the kitchen at the end of the bar, milling around continuously, some wearing white chef hats. I turned around to look at the groups of people sitting at the tables; I observed them talk animatedly to each other. The atmosphere in this small space was intimate, yet lively. Peoples’ faces looked happy and relaxed. I focused on the taste of the food. I really tasted it, trying to figure out the main ingredients.
When you lose a sense or part of one, there is a theory that your other senses are heightened. I’m not sure if this is the case. What I have realised is that I appreciate the hearing I have left. And, I pay extra attention to my other senses, as I now rely more on these to interact with the world.
I was happy to be out having a meal in a fantastic restaurant. Following my hearing loss, it had originally taken time for me to get to a stage of dealing with noise sensitivity issues to even be able to enter a busy place like this. Yet, this experience, for me, wasn’t one centred around social interaction and conversation, as it seemed to be for the other diners. It was an evening of observation, of noticing delicious aromas of freshly prepared cuisine, and of moments really appreciating the taste of the dishes. I enjoyed the atmosphere and the food, yet without the ability to converse effectively, I felt like I had experienced a lot of it alone.
This article was recently published by Hearing link.
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I could have written this post, Carly, although not as eloquently as you. I must admit, though I vowed I would not become withdrawn due to hearling loss, I am finding myself more and more avoiding these situations. The frustration level is just too high. I have had to leave volunteer jobs for the same reason. Now, if we do go out to dinner with folks, we pick the quietest resataurants and get there just as they open, before the noise level reaches crescendo! Have a wonderful day!!
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Hi Al, how are you?
Thank you for the comment. These types of situations can be so exhausting, and it is definitely easier to just avoid them.
I think the key to getting the most enjoyment out of these experiences is exactly what you are doing – finding ways to work around any issues.
In the future, I will make sure that there is always a table booked before going out for a meal. I also generally avoid noisy restaurants, but it is difficult to predict how loud the crescendo will be until it actually happens!
Have a wonderful day too, Al 🙂
Thank you, your words are very encouraging and always include positive remarks, suggestions, etc. . I lost my hearing in my left ear overnight, just 4 months ago! It will be a journey for sure.
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Stay strong. It does get easier. I lost the hearing in my left ear 2 years ago. I bent down and went deaf in my left ear. I really struggled to come to terms with it at first, but you do adapt.
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Hi there Jane,
Thank you for the great comment 🙂
You are right, it can be difficult to deal with the loss of hearing when it first happens, though it can definitely get easier with time.
I find it interesting that you also lost your hearing after bending down. My head was bowed as I was writing some notes. When I lifted my head, the hearing in my left ear suddenly went…
Best of wishes,
Hello, Thank you for reading and for your comment. Sorry you have also had a sudden hearing loss. It will be a journey, and you are still in the early stages. Things will start to feel more ‘normal’ with time, and it is amazing how our bodies can adjust to these difficult changes.
If you have any questions, please feel free to ask 🙂
Hi – I have experienced hearing loss in both ears in the last 6/7 weeks. I am convinced it is linked to my jaw and TMJ. However, no one seems to want to know. I have been to the docs 3 times and they now say I need a dentist. In the UK I am unable to get a NHS dentist, so expect I will have to pay. I shall be ringing an orthodontist tomorrow. The tinnitus I have in both ears along with the constant feeling of pressure in my head is becoming unbearable.
I’d be glad to hear any tips of how folk have sought treatment in the UK, as it really does seem to be a battle.
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Hi there Hayley,
Thank you for your comment.
It sounds like you are going through a difficult and stressful time at the moment. Was your hearing loss sudden or has it been gradual?
I hope you are able to see a dentist very soon and that they can help you with your jaw issues. I have read that both tinnitus and ear pressure can be related to TMJ disorder. There are therapies that can help with TMJ and it is usually suggested that you wear a mouth-guard at night.
I also feel that issues with my jaw (and neck) played a part in my hearing loss, but ENT specialists don’t support this theory. I actually see a chiropractor who is more open-minded and who explained to me how cervical spine issues can affect ear vessels and nerves. I find that after an adjustment, the pressure I feel in my head and ears changes – almost like my ears are more ‘open’. It’s difficult to explain. It’s not a miracle cure, but I definitely have some relief from the pressure.
I’m sorry I can’t offer you any information about seeking treatment in the UK, as I received treatment in Spain. I hope someone will read your comment, and give you some advice.
I hope you find some relief from the tinnitus and ear pressure.
Hello dear Carly for some reason i lost you (from my reader sort of)..i have to go back and navigate to the time i followed you so that i can see if your still active..and yay..i am glad i found you again..
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Hello! I think I lost you too! Lovely to hear from you 💜
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