I have this guy friend who has gone to far too many punk shows and now he is so deaf it is embarrassing to be with him in public because he yells everything. He also gets really pissed if we ask him to quiet down. How do I let him know nicely, that at 32 he needs hearing aids?
-My Loud Friend
The mistake thus far has been calling him out on his decibel level in public. Chances are that despite how shameless he seems, he is already aware of his deteriorating hearing and completely ashamed. Also, there is nothing worse than being told to be quiet when you are in the midst of expressing yourself.
Take your friend aside when things are more intimate, less on display, and have an honest conversation in a trusting environment. “Hey, Joe Schmo, I am wondering if you have noticed that you have started speaking extra loudly lately, do you have any idea why that is?” He might be like, “because you are hard of hearing, wench” and spit it back at you, or he might be like, “whoah, really? I don’t remember myself as loud.”
Penny Lane from Almost Famous keeps coming to mind. I keep seeing her passed out in her hotel room after trying to kill herself, so in love with a musician. She never saw her reality, herself without the music and the bands until some kid held her and danced with her and stood by her, witnessing her in her least glamorous form.
An ex-mosher surely doesn’t want to admit his fallibility. Being human can suck when sensory experience wanes, depending on where you started. For a loud concert fan this loss of hearing might be a devastating and ironic reality, losing the ability to appreciate what you love because you were appreciating what you love. Him and Penny Lane, so sad.
So be sweet, go slow, and quietly and gently address the truth of your friend’s fading ears. That, or start wearing earplugs and humor the dude and his altered noise level.
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