I was thinking about my grandmother the other day. She became deaf as a young woman and I always remember her with her hearing aid. It was about the size of a Blackberry and twice as thick. She wore it in a little pocket fixed to a harness that went around her chest. When she didn’t want to hear my grandfather talk any longer, she would turn off her hearing aid. This was quite the visual as the off/on switch was in the middle of the hearing aid and she turned it off with an elaborate twist of her hand. I always thought that was such a neat way of signaling, “I’m done with this conversation!”
This memory got me thinking about other memories of hearing loss – some good and others not so much. Just so you know, there will be no ugly list in this post. It just sounded good in the title.
Here are some benefits of hearing loss for me:
I have a mute button on my hearing aid. Before I received my cochlear implant, which unfortunately doesn’t have a mute button, I could cut out irritating sounds such as dogs barking, the hammering of new roof shingles in the neighbourhood, and the irritating signal trucks make when they back up. It was lovely to be in my backyard and not hear these sounds. I would also use the mute button when on the subway. I never could understand the instructions over the loud speakers even with my hearing aids and the silence was heavenly!
Because those of us who are deaf lip read, we watch faces closely. We attend to others. This eye contact is a really great way to connect and we do it automatically because we need to see their faces in order to hear what they are saying. As a result people like talking with us.
I give workshops for a living and invariably there is at least one person in the group who wants to speak with me after the session because she either knows someone who is deaf or has some concerns about her own hearing. We all have frailties and life can be made easier when we are allowed to share those frailties with others.
However hearing loss can be a great challenge. In a nutshell, the biggest issue is that we can’t hear! So we miss.
I remember when I was about 14 or 15 years old celebrating New Year’s Eve with friends of my family. Just at midnight, everyone trouped outside. I went along, not knowing why we were doing this. While we were outside, I noticed that others were exclaiming about something but I couldn’t understand them for the most part because it was dark. It wasn’t until we were back inside and I asked my mother what that was all about that I found out the church bells were ringing in the New Year. I didn’t hear them and missed the experience.
School was a challenge in many ways. Although I had a seat up front and could for the most part understand the teacher until he or she turned away to face the blackboard, I couldn’t hear any of the students behind me. I disliked ‘reading out loud’ the most of all the work we did. I would watch to see when others turned the page so I could at least be in the general vicinity of the book and dreaded my name being called because I did not know where to start.
One of the things I really don’t like about being deaf is missing the joke – especially the punch line. Have you ever noticed that when someone is telling a joke, he will lower his voice slightly just as he gets to the punch line? It is for effect and helps draw people in but it is frustrating for those of us who can’t hear. And asking to repeat the joke really spoils the party. So I miss.
But back to the good.
My favorite memory of the advantages of being deaf has to be when I was about 7 or 8 years old, the youngest in a family of six. We had a television set that didn’t always work and when the sound went, I was called on to lip read. People tended to speak directly to the camera in the early days of television so it was very easy for me to lip read. Talk about power! The red letter day for me was being able to stay up long past my bedtime, lip reading and watching I Love Lucy. What a treat!
Do you have experiences, good or bad, with hearing loss? I would love to hear your stories.