Archive for October 15th, 2006

I was inspired to write this after coming across a blogger who addressed the issue they had with their hearing loss. It isn’t something I talk about much other than with “the man I am seeing”. Since I no longer have a husband who used to yell in my face “DO YOU HAVE POTATOES IN YOUR EARS?” when I asked him to repeat himself, I have not endured the impatience or abuse I took for many years because of it.When I was going through the divorce, I decided to go get my hearing checked for the first time ever. I was hoping it was just wax buildup, or even potatoes, but my ears were clean. At least I have good hiegene.

I found, instead, that I have congenital hearing loss. (“congenital” meaning “we have no idea why you have hearing loss, you just do”.) I have significant hearing loss, but since I have not had my ears checked in my entire adult life, I have no idea if it was always this way or progressively gotten worse over the years or what. It is worse in my right ear, better in my left ear, but still not too great. I remind “the man I am seeing” to whisper “sweet nothings” in the left ear, when he felt the urge to, that is.

The thought of hearing aids is a struggle for me. I never thought myself vain. Maybe insecure about the stretch marks from having my babies or self conscious on a bad hair day or pms-breaking-out-day, but when the idea of having hearing aids arose, I kind of freaked out. Have I gotten hearing aids yet? Nooo. Why? They are damn expensive…they can get up to 5k a piece if you want the good ones. And, well, because I guess I am vain. I dont want to stand out and show I have a problem. (even though I am smart enough to know that regardless of hearing aids or not, I DO have a problem. I can’t friggin’ hear!)

I have managed over the years to read lips a bit. If someone is turned away or has their hand up to their face or a scarf around their chin, I just hear this mumbling and cant see anything to help me out. Lipreading came in handy when I went to court for the divorce proceedings. I would watch my ex and his scroungy lawyer across the room and read their lips. My lawyer was in on it with me. “What are they saying now?” she would whisper. “Oh, they’re just saying that my measely child support should cover preschool, college and what-not”. Or “I think he just said the “F” word.”

I miss out on conversations at parties, especially when there is loud music. I used to pretend I was tired or spaced out so I wouldnt get approached and dragged into a conversation that I couldnt hear. I missed half of Brokeback Mountain because the speech was so soft but the visuals told me everything I needed to know, I missed most of “Capote” because the tone in his voice was hard for me to hear. I miss the dialog of movies where the background music is loud. These things can sometimes be fixed if I am at home by changing the bass or surround sound levels.

When there is soft music playing in stores or elevators, I have a hard time identifying the song while my kids are dancing around in the aisles singing it word for word at the top of their lungs. I can hear the music but have no idea what it is. I hear voices, muffled, but have no idea what they are saying. (I HEAR VOICES!) I strain and sometimes between straining and reading lips with people, I can get the jist of what is being said. Sometimes not.

I have had a few embarrassing encounters. People with thick accents are difficult to understand for people with hearing problems. I was once spending a weekend with two couples, the men each being British. Not only were they British with these beautiful accents, but they were from different parts of England, so they had DIFFERENT British accents. Imagine that. Fortunately for me, I knew one of them men fairly well and quickly adjusted so I wasnt left out in the cold for very long.

In college, there was a man from Africa with a VERY thick accent. I could NEVER understand him. I worked in the Career Development Center and he would frequently come in for career help. When I saw him coming, I would rush out to run an errand or hide in the back and pretend to be sorting books so that another employee would help him. If he cornered me and spoke, I would just stare at him and be afraid to say “what?”. Which I did often because I had no choice. And the man was speaking English! He caught on over time and would laugh at me when our paths crossed on the road…one thing I managed to understand was him yelling after me through his laughter “WAIT! I WANT TO TALK TO YOU!” and I was like “I’m late for class!”. It was mortifying.

Frustrating? Slightly. It is embarrassing to ask people to repeat themselves. The neighbor over the fence used to talk to me from about 30 feet away and I would have to put my hand up to get them to stop and have them wait for me to walk right up to the fence and have them repeat themselves right in my face.

Chef has this great deep man voice and the majority of the time I can hear him. If the water in the sink is running or he turns away from me, I sometimes miss what he is saying. If I ask him to repeat himself, he has yet to act frustrated or mad or yell “DO YOU HAVE POTATOES IN YOUR EARS?” And for that I am eternally grateful for his lovingness in this.

The fact that I have two young children complicates things a little. I have to have a sharp ear. Currently, I keep a baby monitor on next to my bed on “high” to hear them if they wake up in the middle of the night. Fortunately for me my kids are now in “big girl beds” so they can come to me and jump and scream to get my attention (wake me). When they get older, I will need hearing aids to overhear their conversations on the phone with their friends, or whispering in the corner with each other conspiring something or another, or to hear them when they come in past curfew or sneak out at night. See what I am up against?


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