Are you like me: not deaf, but close to it?
Every year, I head to the audiologist for a hearing test. Ninety-five percent of the time, the result is the same: more hearing decibels lost. Eleven years ago when I was diagnosed with progressive hearing loss, each ear tested at 20 percent hearing loss. The left ear remained stable all these years. The right ear, however, is now at 60 percent loss. This ear hears some sound but can’t distinguish where the sounds come from or interpret the meaning of spoken words.
I’m not deaf, but close to it.
Last year, a serious ear infection wrecked havoc on my hearing ability. Sickness destroyed a decibel or two of what I can now hear in the right ear. Voices seem more mumbled, phone conversations more muffled. It’s as if someone turned the volume down a notch inside my “bad” ear.
My kids must repeat themselves more, their questions often met with my blank stares. My youngest child, who at age 4 is learning new vocabulary every day, screams his words to me. Late-night conversations are especially difficult with my husband since bedtime is when I go hearing aid-free.
Not deaf, but close to it.
Does the strained hearing ability frustrate me and my family? Absolutely. What mom doesn’t want to hear her little boy’s first words crystal clear, or have a heartfelt chat with her husband without the constant refrain of “Huh? Could you repeat that?”
I suppose it’s easier to add up all the stress-induced moments caused by hearing loss since there are so many. I could also count all the sound decibels lost over the past 11 years. Or the conversations hindered by hearing loss. Or the increasingly difficult listening situations. I could count all the times I’ve wished and prayed for better ears.
Would life be easier without hearing loss? Without a doubt. Would my life be better? Hmm…
I guess I should count the many people I’ve met who, like myself, struggle with hearing. Neighbors. Parents. Teachers. Artists. Scientists, Teenagers. Children. Babies. Friends. Every week, most notably through my affiliation with the Hearing Loss Association of America, I connect with someone living with their own lost decibels.
Would I have taken the time to get to know all these people if I could hear perfectly? Or would I have tuned them out, passing them by without any empathy or concern for their unique experiences?
I’m not deaf, but close to it. Life has handed me more hearing loss. Now I must decide whether to count my blessings… or focus on the lost decibels.
The inspiring people I’ve connected with who have hearing loss are to be counted as my major gains.