I’ve been told by two ex-husbands and several friends that I have a ‘broken listener.’ What they were referring to was my uncanny but annoying ability to talk over them and finish their sentences while they were speaking. This was a bad habit I developed growing up in a Saturday Night Live New Jersey ‘Loud Family.’ Anything to be heard.
That was years ago before I’d turned sixty and the delicate membranes in my eardrums started to wear out. Recently, whenever I tried to meditate, the sounds of silence were a cacophony of chimes ringing in my ears. I took the quiz in a four page ad in the paper and answered ‘YES’ to four or more questions like:
Do people seem to mumble or speak softer than they used to?
Do you sometimes miss key words in a sentence or frequently have to ask people to repeat themselves?
Do you often need to turn up the volume on the tv or radio? (Heck, I’d been using closed caption for years).
Do you find it difficult to hear the doorbell, the alarm clock, the timer on the stove ring?
It had escalated to the point that my screen writing teacher wrote me a note on a script once “Do yourself a favor Pat and get yourself a hearing aid.” I hadn’t gone to too many rock concerts or worn a walk-man and earbuds in my early years, but me, going deaf? How could that be?
Two years ago I took the “free” hearing test in that little metal cubicle next to the pharmacy at CostCo and failed of course. Their hearing aids were ‘only’ $2500, and the one’s my friend’s without unemployed husbands had, cost $5-6000. Out of the question in these tough times.
Then I heard about The International Lions Club program ‘Ear of the Lion ’ http://www.md4lions.org/projects/earofthelion.html. I signed up immediately to qualify as low-income and send them a certified test paid for by my newest blessing: Medicare. Just last week my ears were fitted for an Otican/Agil state of the art hearing aid, that was recycled probably by some wise beneficiary or because someone else had traded up from the $6000 model to the newest one that is the world’s smallest wireless headset. It connects to cell phones, land lines, computers, and Bluetooth. Yikes, what has this world come to? I have no desire to be that wired.
Today as I write this my fingers on the keys sound like a piano without the music. Yes, I no longer need close captioned for 90% of TV and movies and discussions in classrooms, and small groups are far clearer. But I can hear my husband next to me masticating oatmeal, forget it when it’s chips! My own chewing is a roar between my ears. The heater in our government issue house sounds like a windstorm, and I never noticed how often the refrigerator came on and off.
When I write a ball point pen sounds much better than a scratchy Roll-a-ball point as it moves on the page. As I walk across the rug in our bedroom, I notice that boards creak under my feet. I never once heard the baby in the apartment next door for 18 months, and now I can hear his mom singing the ‘open your mouth, and close your eyes …’ tune while feeding him. I took a walk on the beach and could almost hear the seagulls wings flapping, and the ocean really does roar.
Oh my god and my car! A 1998 Avalon, state of the art 12 years ago. sounds windy as heck, the tires rolling beneath its wheels amplified. It’s excellent stereo sounds like the symphony is in the next room, even with the volume at much lower level. This is a lot like the first time I got stoned!
Life amplified is amazing! But how much is too much? I now know what they mean when they talk about noise pollution. Perhaps much of the extraneous noise I’d tuned out as I aged was meant not to be heard. Like three screaming children running round and round the rows of vegetable in the supermarket. Like the woman tapping her plate with a fork at the next table during a delicious lunch overlooking the ocean at Ventana. I can’t imagine what it would be like to walk the streets of New York city.
My audiologist taught me how to turn the volume down and that helped.
When I come home everyday the first thing I usually do is take off my earrings. Now I can’t wait to get home, remove my hearing aid, and bless the quiet in my home.
I could go on and on, but you get the point: I’m very glad to be in control of the volume button. But I’m not so sure anymore that hearing loss is a bad thing. It may be one of the blessings of old age in this fast-paced society. Perhaps sitting with someone face to face to have a focused conversation is the way it’s supposed to be. Having the option to choose silence is becoming more and more attractive.
In conclusion, with so many wearing those i-pods everywhere, the only thing I can say is: if you have the money, invest in audiology!