A deaf man’s wishes

March 1, 2007
I am venturing out on a limb here with a wild guess. The reason I am so supportive of networking, particularly among women, is my deafness.

by Mark Hartley

I am venturing out on a limb here with a wild guess. The reason I am so supportive of networking, particularly among women, is my deafness.

Before I get to that, I recall a conversation with my father about my late aunt. He has two brothers. The widower of the trio is enjoying some silence now. My aunt was a talker, to put it mildly. She became angry at my father and did not speak to him at all during the final years of her life. One day, Dad relayed this to the third brother who still had to converse with his sister-in-law from time to time. Instead of doing something noble like helping to mend fences, my uncle asked my father, “What did you do to get her not to speak to you? Whatever it was, I want to do it too.”

Comedians always find plenty of fresh material for routines about women who, uh, network (flap the gums) too much. I wonder if a comic has ever thought about the blessings of a deaf man deep in a conversation with a chatty woman?

(Actually, it’s a pain. Both men and women tend to overcompensate in volume when talking to the hearing impaired. The increased volume often isn’t necessary. The hearing impaired often need to just back up the conversation a couple of paragraphs and start over, focusing more intently on the speaker.)

I wish I could say I was noble about encouraging my wife and my daughter to network, network, network. There could be some sort of deeper awareness here - a man who finally understands women.

Nah. I laugh at the comedians’ jokes too. I am guilty sometimes of tuning women out, even when I can hear just fine. A woman who says, “Can you tell me what you think about this?” runs the risk of my being incapable of thinking anything, except, you know, a nap would be nice.

It’s the deafness. I certainly don’t like to see women who are frustrated in their ability to communicate. An important part of any life event is sharing the experience with others.

However, if more than two people are talking, I can’t follow the conversation. I appear almost antisocial at large group gatherings. I concentrate so much on catching what fragments of conversation I can hear that I don’t have enough concentration left to think of something to say. One-on-one is best for me, but my wife and I already have a lot of practice at that.

So I strongly encourage my wife to network, network, network. I would not describe her as being overly talkative (she does not read RDH, so I’m not being politically correct here). But I see a certain difference - a certain state-of-mind that conveys being refreshed and excited, a spring in her step - when she networks with like-minded women. Several times a month, she participates in women-only social functions.

It’s good for our marriage that she does so.

It’s good for my daughter too. It’s good for RDH readers too.

I have already probably botched this comparison in a typical male way. But this is what I see at an RDH Under One Roof conference (see related article on pages 20-26). I see dental hygienists networking with each other for three to four days in a very positive, satisfying way.

I am, of course, delighted with the way the continuing education courses have come together. I’m looking forward to sitting in on a few of them. But I examine the course offerings at other dental meetings, and I think they also do a fine job of putting together a program.

It’s the networking. The upcoming UOR, as the conference is commonly called, is the ninth one RDH has hosted. Personally, I think the upcoming one at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, D.C., offers the best potential for networking yet.

Although the hotel is down the street from a subway station that connects you with any part of the District of Columbia that you desire to visit, the Shoreham is a classy hotel that sort of prefers an aura of seclusion. The hotel is your backyard for the weekend of Aug. 2-4.

The hotel has a very large, stately lobby, as well as some beautiful gardens to the rear of the hotel. It’s perfect for hygienists who want to spend a weekend surrounded by their own.

The setting is almost as if a deaf man wished it.