Humor is based on the element of SURPRISE. For that reason, it provides one of the biggest opportunities for awkward moments.
Surprise means an unexpected word or phrase. Unexpected words and phrases take the time for the brain to “hear” and to comprehend for those of us with a hearing loss. By the time we get it, the moment is gone. It feels awkward to miss the humor, especially in a group setting.
When I don’t get the joke
I stopped laughing just because others were laughing a few years ago. Inevitably, someone would turn to me and ask, “What did they say?” How embarrassing to tell them I had no idea. How enlightening it was to realize how many people with “normal” hearing do the same thing!
If in the presence of someone hearing-impaired, here are three things you can do to ease their discomfort as far as humor is concerned.
- If someone cracks a joke you did not hear, but your hearing-impaired friend is laughing, PLEASE, PLEASE do not turn around and ask them what was said. Many of us fake laughing just to fit in. To ask us what was said is asking us to confess we did not hear and are faking it. Really, really, uncomfortable. Ask someone else if you did not get the joke.
- If someone cracks a joke and your hearing-impaired family/friend is NOT laughing, do not make a big deal about it. What I have found is that if someone insists I hear, the flow of the dialog comes to a screeching halt while it is explained to me. I abhor that. All that attention focused on me, waiting for me to “get it” and laugh. Even if funny, I usually find it hard to laugh because I am uncomfortable with the fact the party has been interrupted because of me.
- Check in with your hearing loss friend or family member about how they would like to handle any social situation or TV show BEFORE it occurs. Do they want you to make sure they hear everything? Or would they rather stay incognito? For me, I choose the latter every time. If I really want to know what was funny, I’ll ask. Otherwise, I’d rather be left alone.
I know you love us but…
I know it can be uncomfortable for my husband, who loves me and really wants me to participate fully in everything. However, he has learned to not insist on me hearing except on rare occasions when it is just TOO good to miss, and he knows it is something I would really, really, really enjoy. In those situations, he is right, and I am grateful he made that effort for me to “get it.”
If you have a hearing loss and don’t realize why it is you do not get the jokes it is probably because the element of surprise is robbing you of the topic and content of the conversation; so important for speech comprehension. If you are with a family member or friend with imperfect hearing, be aware of these challenges and adjust accordingly.
Below is the video that inspired this post…<