Pack your resilience

Just back from holiday.  You wouldn’t believe all the bits of kit I take with me for peace of mind, especially if I’m going abroad.

holiday hearing aid kit
holiday hearing aid kit

As well as the normal essentials – hearing aids, spare batteries – I take:

  1. Cleaning kit – for getting bits of wax out of ear moulds, and stuff like that.
  2. Puffer – for getting condensation out of the tubing.
  3. Spare tubing – in case it needs replacing for some reason.
  4. Spare hearing aids. THANK YOU NHS.  My local hospital now provides free spare pairs on holiday loan – how wonderful is that?
  5. Spare ear moulds. In case I lose the ear moulds?  Ridiculously unlikely but you never know, and whilst you could probably buy hearing aid tubing in many places abroad my ears are peculiar to me and the moulds irreplaceable.  They are old ones, and not a perfect fit, but they would do the job for a while.
  6. Drying tub and desiccator tablets – if going somewhere hot or if I might get sweaty (for example, if hiking). Drop your hearing aids in the tub overnight, with one of the tablets, and they are safely thoroughly dried.  Damp hearing aids don’t work and can be permanently damaged.
  7. Nowadays I also pack the Roger pen, the Roger pen receiver and the two sets of charging equipment they come with.

All this fits into a small toilet bag so whilst it’s a long list and I’m sure I sound ludicrously over-cautious about possible holiday hearing aid calamities it’s not a big deal to pack and carry.

One thing I sometimes forget to pack enough of is resilience.

Holidays are funny things, for me, because they expose me to a variety of situations I would normally avoid.  For example, in everyday life I like to cook for friends but only two at a time.  With three other people (Nigel, me and two others) I can enjoy myself and follow the conversation (unless I’m at the stove stirring the custard).  We don’t usually do bigger gatherings any more.

But Nigel and I love wildlife holidays and these always involve eating meals in a big group.  This year, on the first night of the holiday, the evening meal was at a venue with about twenty other people (all travelling independently; we didn’t know them). It was eaten round a huge communal table – so wide I couldn’t conceive of understanding the people across from me.  Twenty people all talked at once – or so it seemed.  Tell me, hearing people, how can you pick out one voice in all that cacophony?  I can’t even conceive of it any more.

I couldn’t understand a thing (and that was before they turned the lights down very low).  I managed a brief conversation with the man sitting on my right but everything else was hopeless.  To cut a long story short I ate my food, tried to look inconspicuous (no point looking as if you might want to talk) and then retreated to our room after the main course, exhausted and demoralised.  I was much happier tucked up in bed with a good book.

For those of you who remember my Roger pen posts I’ve discovered it doesn’t help me in situations where there are multiple voices, much less 20 of them.

Thankfully, after two nights of this the situation changed and we were travelling as part of a small group.  We ate together at mealtimes round big tables but there were fewer people.  I still couldn’t hear a lot but I could hear something and I was getting to know the other people so they understood the trouble I was having.  During the days things were fine.  Our guide was enormously helpful and took pains to make sure I could always hear him.  There were lots of occasions when I could just talk to one or two other people in a quiet environment, rather than the whole group at once.  I was back in “I can cope with this” mode and indeed had a fantastic time.

But those first two evening meals were horrible, which is what I meant when I said I can forget to pack enough resilience.  My daily life feels very normal to me – by and large I feel I am living the same sort of life that many people lead – but I can forget the extent to which I’ve arranged things to minimise the effect of my hearing loss.  So sometimes when I can’t arrange those things (like on the sort of holiday we love doing) it is really quite a shock, and coping with that takes an enormous amount of resilience.  I felt a fool when people tried to talk to me and I couldn’t understand them.  I know I shouldn’t say that – I know I’m deaf not foolish – but those of you with hearing loss will know exactly what I mean.  Worse, I thought people might be pitying me.  Dealing with that is hard.

But I did.  Resilience kicked in. I said in an earlier post that deafness really tests your resilience but a friend pointed out that it may actually strengthen it.  We hearing loss people are so used to picking ourselves up and carrying on after embarrassing set-backs that perhaps we end up with more resilience than most.  As I say, the daytimes were absolutely fine, and mealtimes got a lot easier at other venues.  We had an excellent holiday.  I largely forgot the first two nights.

Just remember, though, when you are doing the holiday packing, that you might need a bucketful of resilience to get you through.




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