Sweet Nothings in My Ear

I just came home from a huge event where my husband got an award.  The award was a really pretty glass thing that probably weighed a couple of pounds but somehow hot sauce got in the picture.  You can tell that he’s pretty happy.  So am I.  If he hadn’t won, he’d have been moping for months.

But the point of the blog post isn’t about the award, it was about the huge celebration.  There were at least 600 people including a lot of people I’ve known for 20-30 years.  Wonderful to see people and, of course, to be seen.  It’s the ultimate schmoozing event for the community development folks in our city.

My problem?  I can only hear about a third of the people who talk to me and then only about half of what they say.  If a person’s voice isn’t in that very narrow band of sound that I can hear, I make a decision.  If I know them and their facial expressions, I might just fake it for a while.  Smile.  Smile.  Nod. Nod.  If my husband is around, he acts as my deaf interpreter and he is getting increasing deft at doing so.  He has stopped saying, She’s deaf.  She can’t hear you.  Which I really thought was both off-putting and a peculiar play for sympathy like look what I have to live with.

So sometimes I meet a completely new person who is eager to talk to me but whose language I can’t discern.  This is different than hearing.  I can hear the person talking.  I just don’t know what he’s saying.  Making it louder doesn’t help oddly even though people sometimes will go to great lengths to shout at me.  I feel bad, disappointed in myself when the result is for naught.  I’m sorry, I still can’t hear you. 

Tonight I just told a very nice man whose name tag indicated to me that I ought to talk to him that it was not going to be possible to have a conversation.  I pointed to my hearing aids, waved my arms around the room filled with hundreds of chattering people, I’m sorry.  He looked at me like oh, ok, should I write you a note? But then he eventually wandered off to the next prospect.  It was then I decided to pack it in and come home.

It takes a lot of mental agility to handle a big crowd like this.  To smile, small talk, move through the crowd and hope that no one corrals me for a longer conversation.  It’s awkward to tell one person that it’s impossible to hear him/her and then be able to talk to the next person because his/her voice falls in the right range.  It’s that dog whistle thing.  I now gravitate to people I know I can hear even though I might otherwise not be so keen on them.

Of all the rotten, terrible things that can happen to someone, hearing loss isn’t the worse.  It is just very weird.  It’s hard to handle.  It’s hard to own.  That’s the most important thing.  It is really, really hard to own.

I’ve learned how to do a lot of stuff.  I can learn to do this.  I can own this.

4 Comments on “Sweet Nothings in My Ear

  1. I know this is an old post, but I just had to comment to thank you for this post. I share your hearing loss and your experience. Like you said, it’s not the worst thing in the world, but sometimes you think it is. Hard to explain to people and very isolating. Have you found yourself withdrawing from most social situations? Thanks for writing about it.

    • Yes to everything you say in your comment. It is not the worst thing but it can be a terrifically difficult thing to cope with. I wrote a couple of other posts about it – “If the Phone Rings, Don’t Answer It,” “Bye Bells,” and “On the Other Side.” In the last one, I talk about returning to teaching a college class after several years of thinking my hearing loss made it impossible to teach. It’s about deciding to power through the disability — which is fine talk but can end up being ridiculous. Put me in a room with more than one person talking and I am lost. I could go on and on about the way hearing loss isolates people but it sounds like you are there. Anyway – you have a comrade here, that’s for sure. 🙂

  2. Goodness, when did you lose your hearing? I read you pretty regularly and this comes as quite a surprise. We’ve done most of our “talking” recently through the computer lately. Thanks for listening to me.

    • It’s been a long while although it has become much much worse in the past six months. Hopefully, there is some additional technology I can use — getting help from the Center for Communication, Hearing and Deafness. An adventure. 🙂

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: