Updated: May 7, 2020
I was born profoundly deaf and implanted at the age of 13 months, as a result there were times where I only knew the world of sound. Growing up I never realized that it was an option to have ears off time; I never thought I could take my implant off during the day. At the time, my implant only came off if I was about to go to bed or if I was taking a nap, otherwise, sound was always on. It wasn't until high school that it dawned on me that I can take my ears off during the day. When this realization came to light I may have taken advantage of it too much, like I was making up for lost time. I soon I learned how I could better manage and schedule in this ears off time, as I like to call it.
So what exactly is ears off time?
In some ways it's the equivalent of "me time". It's a period of time where I take off my hearing devices and I am in my natural world of silence. Typically, during this time I am also doing other things - either homework, cleaning, or my favorite, watching TV. I've had people ask me how you can watch TV with no sound! Easy - closed captions. I turn off the sound, put on captions, and watch the show! I can often audiate the characters voices in my head, so as I see different people talking, I can hear their own voices as I read the captions!
Why is this time necessary?
For the hearing people reading this, have you ever been in a room full of people where there are multiple TVs on, music playing, dozens of conversations overlapping, kids screaming, someone is rhythmically tapping, another is playing a game with sound on their tablet, a phone ringing... all while trying to carry on a conversation with someone a foot away from you? I see you all in these situations as I'm in them too! But then what is the difference? The difference is that I am trying to focus on this one person but I don't want to drown out any background noise because isn't all noise important? Besides, I don't know how to drown out that background noise, I'm sure that's a nice ability! But what if someone calls my name? What if my phone rings? Or what if someone is trying to get my attention? Even if I use a Roger system to help me hear that one person better, I am still visually aware of everything around me which makes up for the sound. I can see the TVs, I can feel the music, see the conversations, and the kids, and believe me, I can see that tapping, and the tablets, and the phones lighting up as they ring (often noticing it before it's picked up). I notice all of it because I'm used to living in a world where even if I don't need to, I use visual cues to fill in for what I think I'm missing audibly, even if I'm not missing anything.
Hence, listening fatigue. It is EXHAUSTING! I'm sure it's exhausting for those who aren't deaf/hard of hearing too, but possibly more so for those who are!
Solution = Ears Off Time!
Minimizing the time in a world of sound helps to be able to thrive better in these situations; makes it more bearable. So oftentimes I'll set aside some time in the day to have ears off time. Watch a show, read a book, clean - anything. And when I do find myself in a situation where I am socializing and in a loud environment, you will often find me with my ears off for a period of time when I get home - it's my way of recovering faster with the listening fatigue!
Looking back, I don't know how I went all those years prior to high school never having this ears off time, but now it's essential to me. It's a rare one if ears off time is not a part of my day!
Ears off time is crucial to me because listening fatigue is real.