I chose Saturday for my study, as I was going out shopping with the family, and figured I'd get into all sorts of situations where this would be problematic. I didn't wear the earplugs all day, because I'm a wimp and they were bothering my ears; I wouldn't say they hurt, but they were a serious discomfort. I learned a lot loss with those things in, though.
My hair is long enough to cover my ears, so a lot of people -- not my family, although my father thought it'd be amusing not to tell my mother that I had earplugs -- couldn't see the earplugs. Sometimes, people adjusted their communication styles to help me out; my mother began to use entirely too many hand gestures in order to facilitate her speech, and a number of sales associates began to speak louder and slower. A few people, though, treated me really coldly when I didn't respond to their small talk. These people didn't think I was hearing impaired: they thought I was rude. This is a handicap that had never occured to me before. Speech is such a universal social tool, and those people who have damage have a hard time keeping up with the rest of us.
The other thing I noticed, though, was far more amusing. Because the earplugs completely occluded my ear, all the sound that'd normally pass through my ear canal and out into space were bounced back to my eardrum, amplifying all the sounds I made with my mouth. It's like putting your fingers in your ears; your own speech gets louder because the sound can't escape. While it was manageable when I was talking, eating was a different matter. Imagine sitting next to someone who was eating with his mouth open. Then imagine him shrinking down, crawling into your ear, and leaning up against your eardrum. When I was eating, I couldn't hear anything except for my own chewing and swallowing. It made conversation very difficult:
Peach: So, I was [MUNCH, MUNCH, SWALLOW, GULP] and then [SLURP, MUNCH GULP] maybe we [MUNCH, GULP]. What do you think?
Me: Uh . . . sure.