I shout when I don’t have my hearing aids in, and am now in trouble

I am wondering if you could help me. I am employed at a private school in Scotland, and feel I am being picked on by one of the management team. He said I was shouting at him, as I did not have my hearing aid in at the time due to wearing ear muffs in the school laboratory which meant I could not hear myself speaking at the right level. He has now given me a warning as he obviously does not realise that I speak louder when I do not have them in at the time. He also complains that I don’t look up when he calls me. Please could you give me some advice as how to address this problem and stop it from happening again


Deafauntie says:
I am puzzled by your email. My first question would to be to ask: did this person interview you? If so, he must have known about your hearing problems. If not, who is your line manager (if you have one)? Have you and your manager explained your hearing loss to all the staff? Maybe add it as an item on the meeting agenda?
In the meantime, speak to the person who you feel is picking on you. Explain why you did not hear him, and that it would help if he found a gentler way to attract your attention when you have your ear muffs on, so you know he is talking to you.
Show him how to do that; hearing people really dislike going up to someone and touching them. Do you want him to walk up to you? Do you want him to tell the nearest person to you to tap you on the shoulder for him?
Be very specific. Hearing people can’t read our minds. Explain that as well as not being able to hear him calling you, you can’t hear yourself, and so you will tend to speak louder than you would normally. Perhaps you could agree to take your ear muffs off – asking him to give you a minute – so you can hear yourself speak better.
Again have some discussion. If he gets impatient – and lots of people do – then suggest you both sit down with someone else after school and go through the issues. You should then relay this conversation to your line manager and take it from there.
Do get in touch with me again if you want so that we can try and crack this problem for you.

2 responses to “I shout when I don’t have my hearing aids in, and am now in trouble

  1. Like Deafauntie, I’m wondering if this person is aware of your hearing loss. But sometimes hearing people forget or choose to ignore it. One of my bosses knew perfectly well I was completely deaf but that didn’t stop him calling out “Good morning Jill” every day when he came into the office. I didn’t even realise he was doing this until someone else told me.

  2. Did your colleague’s approach make you start visibly, i.e. did you jump enough for him to notice?

    My view – and it’s just a suggestion – is that he’s probably interpreting your shouting as emotion-based, as a result of your being startled, and thinks it’s made you angry. He then thinks you’ve over-reacted and has got angry in his turn as a result of what he thinks is your disproportionate reaction to what he thinks is his innocuous approach.

    One thing I have noticed is that shouting isn’t just about volume, it’s also about tone of voice, and if you’ve been startled your tone of voice may be a bit sharp, which is not at all surprising. If it’s hard enough to control volume, at moments when we’re surprised or carried away, it is even harder to keep emotion out of our voices. Unfortunately, hearing people tend not to respond well to a sharp tone of voice as it sounds aggressive to them, especially when they haven’t meant any harm, and the situation escalates.

    I used to have situations which seemed to escalate unnecessarily from my point of view, until I pinpointed that my voice was both rising and sometimes sounding much more annoyed than I had meant to be. I explained this to my colleagues and have had fewer such situations as a result. Explain to him likewise about volume and emotion control, both of which are less easy to do when you’re deaf, because you have to think about it more, and when your brain is diverted from your normal coping mechanisms because you’re startled (for example), you don’t automatically control your voice.

    I’ve had a similar experience to Jill. A former manager used to wave his hands at me (great) but accompanied it with a very vigorous PSSSTTTTTT!!!! which drew the attention of the entire very large open-plan office. He never quite worked out that hand-waving and PSSSSTTIIIIING weren’t compatible, bless him, but as he was otherwise a very good egg, I forgave him.

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