The coming months of isolation

Yesterday evening, I took my kid to the rink for the first time in seven-ish months. She had to be dressed in full gear except for helmet and skates. There would be no dressing rooms available, no parents allowed into the arena, no use of the water fountain to refill bottles of water.

How the world has changed.

But we count ourselves lucky. At least she’s getting some exercise in her beloved team sport. (Ringette, very similar to hockey.)

After she was checked (health check in the app, clipboard for the general questions) she entered the arena and disappeared. I wasn’t worried; she’s been skating since age 4. She just turned 13 last week. She can manage without me there.

She’ll be fine.

I on the other hand was not fine.

Here’s the thing.

In my location (Toronto, Canada) masks are mandatory indoors, but not outdoors unless social distancing is not possible.

The rule for this week (and maybe for the next months, I don’t know, things keep changing in the wrong direction) is that inside the arena, a maximum of 10 people are allowed on the ice (1 coach and 9 skaters). No one is allowed in the viewer’s area. So the parents who drove the girls to the rink stayed outside, or in their car.

Some people wear masks anyway when outside even if they are physically apart from others. I don’t have a problem with that. Each individual can do what they feel is best.

So yesterday, I saw a few parents and coaches hanging around the arena entrance and almost all of them wore masks.

I stayed back – as luck would have it, this particular arena was ten minutes away from home and I had dinner going before we left, so I wanted to return to finish.

Except…there were people there whom I haven’t seen in many months. People I’ve spent years with at practices and games, local and away tournaments…

I was kind of excited to have a conversation with people who were, you know, not virtual. ๐Ÿฅบ

But something became very clear very quickly.

Although I could hear voices from my location several meters apart from the closest person, I could not understand the words they were saying.

Not one.

I strained my ears (which are broken, damaged, due to a childhood illness) which hurt my brain, so I stopped. I gave up, and walked away disappointed and resigned.

The amount of mental energy it requires for me to participate in a masked conversation is not worth the mental stress and fatigue I suffer afterwards.

Stepping closer to the group may have helped a bit. But not being able to see their faces – not just to read lips, but also to absorb expressions – was futile because of the masks. Even though most know of my hearing challenge (although many probably forgot), It’s not up to me to say ‘I can’t hear this way, please remove your mask’.

It is what it is.

Note: I can hear enough to pass as normal. Most people would not immediately see that I have hearing loss. I can, and do manage fine in most normal (not masked) circumstances.ย  However, I get mentally fatigued quicker than most. This is because the broken parts inside my ear canal send distorted sounds to my brain which is then trying, and failing, to process the sounds into language.

The masks are making socializing in person very difficult for the hearing challenged.

Keep this in mind when you talk with the elderly.

And don’t judge someone to be anti-social without knowing why they’re acting the way they do. There is always more going on than meets the eye.

For me, I’ve had decades of experience with this hearing situation and yet, it still affects me almost every single day.

Believe it or not, despite my heavy use of online social, I do enjoy, even crave, in-person socialization. I like small, intimate gatherings, conversation between two friends, chats among small groups of sport parents in rinks or restaurants… that sort of thing.

But the masks…they will hinder some of this for me.

Isolation is going to be the biggest hurdle to manage in the coming winter months for many people, but especially for those who have trouble with the mask wearing for one reason or another.

I’m dreading it. And I know I’m not alone.

Please be kind and understanding while we navigate the complexities of this endless coronavirus pandemic. ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ’๐Ÿ˜ท

32 Replies to “The coming months of isolation”

  1. Ugh, yes. My 93-yo mother has a heck of a time with the visiting nurse, physical therapist, housekeeper, etc etc., all trying to talk to her while wearing a mask. Even when they talk LOUD she can’t follow what they’re saying. I have a dry erase board for them to write stuff down for her but that probably wouldn’t work for you in your situations since it’s groups of people having lively conversations. Bloody COVID!!!!!

    I can only imagine what it must’ve been like for her when she was in the hospital all alone in April. Doctors and nurses coming in with masks, standing there talking to her and she didn’t even know that they were talking since she couldn’t even hear muffled voices behind the masks. I’m sure there are lots of other elderly and young people with hearing loss who are having equally frightening experiences in the hospital.

    I hope some kind of a workaround solution pops up so that you can enjoy meeting up with friends while remaining safe. Sigh…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mental (and physical) fatigue are very common in hearing loss patients for the very reasons you’ve outlined. The brain is working hard to decipher sounds, and that takes a toll…and masks only add to that struggle.

    You have my sympathies.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We have something similar for the kids’ activities. I drop them off at one door and then turn up at another door (one way systems everywhere) to pick them up. Even though we have to stand outside to wait for the kids, I have noticed that all of the parents wear masks while waiting.

    I can sympathise with your hearing difficulties. My Dutch is not as good as it should be and the past few months have really brought home to me just how much I rely on visual cues.

    It is hard work and you are absolutely right about not making judgements about how people respond to us. We’re all navigating a new situation here and, for some of us, it will be more work than for others.


  4. I “hear” and sympathize with ya. I have tinnitus in my left ear and mask wearing makes it even harder to hear people, geez especially if they are a soft talker. I did invest in an ear amplifier but it just seems that makes all the wrong sounds I don’t want to hear unnecessarily too loud even at a low volume. ๐Ÿ‡ฑ๐Ÿ‡ท๐Ÿ˜ท๐Ÿ™Š๐Ÿ™‰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m fine. I managed since age 7, I’ll continue to manage. On the plus side, today’s technology has reduced the isolation I felt when I was a teenager in the 80s…talking on the analogue phone was really hard for me but that’s what the teens did then. Today? Texting and email reduced that isolation. ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am amazed at how much I depend on seeing peopleโ€™s faces to hear their words. My husband wears hearing aids, and cannot wear them with the mask on. (Taking the mask off and flinging $5,000 worth of hearing hardware across the parking lot doesnโ€™t make for a great day) I am not a masker, so I have two choices. Stay home, or stand back. I miss hugs the most. Either way โ€“ it IS exhausting!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Youโ€™re right, thatโ€™s something we donโ€™t often think of when masked. Iโ€™m sorry this pandemic has yet another layer of horror for you.
    I miss smiles as well. I still do it when I pass people, not that anyone can see me.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I also have difficulty at times hearing especially outside. I find it more difficult to understand if people are wearing the plastic masks however I know they are brilliant for those who can lip read. I think human contact is what everyone just craves for. We are heading into another lockdown so there will be no interaction for a number of weeks.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I hate that awful feeling when things just aren’t working out. I’m sorry this happened and I really hope that someday people can take off their masks. I never judge people for their choice in avoiding groups or keeping distance.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have some hearing loss–a genetic thing in the girls in our family. And the mask does make shopping more difficult. I note that my sister, who has lovely salt-and-pepper gray hair, navigates much more easily than me. My hair stubbornly sticks to mousy brown, with just a wisp of gray at the temples (visible only if I pull my hair up, and back.) In a mask, I don’t look like a senior (just a dumpy middle-aged person), so I get no slack when I cannot hear. I have to announce that I’m impaired to get folks to speak up. It’s exhausting and demoralizing. I do understand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One time I did some research into what types of groups suffer hearing loss the most besides the elderly or those born with deafness. I was stunned at the stigma I saw. The music industry for instance…a lot of the older musicians (my generation or so) are often isolated citing privacy which I think is only part of the reason. Giving all those loud concerts for do long…then there’s the military personnel, the construction workers, and helicopter pilots who also suffer significantly with hearing challenges.

      People are always surprised to see a non-elderly person who claims to not hear well. It has happened to me for 3 decades. Because I “look” normal. (lol…if only they knew๐Ÿ˜‰)

      Liked by 1 person

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