[Written six months before my first cochlear implant in 2015. Now, with the second implant on the horizon, I’m remembering how things were, how I’d created the world’s tiniest world.]
I love my dogs more now that I’m going deaf. They’re not interested in having conversations. They just like to hang out. Wordlessly.
It is a relief, an unburdening that is hard to explain to a person with fully functional hearing. It is exhausting to be hearing impaired. Pile on the completely unpredictable layers of self-pity and self-doubt and hearing loss very nearly becomes a mental health issue. I kid you not. Really. I kid about very little when it comes to hearing loss. Other people occasionally find it funny but not me.
It is because of this frequent slow-dancing with depression related to my hearing loss that I appreciate my dogs’ low expectations of me. They bark, but at other people, other dogs, a knock on a neighbor’s door, flies circling an apple core in the gutter. They do know how to express themselves in the world. They are not mute and they most certainly are not deaf. That’s a good thing. Their ears protect me from the gnats of life, big and small.
It occurs to me as I reflect on my verbally undemanding dogs that the path to becoming a complete recluse gets shorter everyday, more welcoming, into the green where lilies of the valley sprout from old logs and tall ferns flag in the breeze. It is shady and soft with rays of sunshine slicing between tall pines. It is silent there except for the sounds the birds flying overhead must be making. Who wouldn’t want to go there?
I do. I would. I could sit on my back porch with my dogs all day every day. I could write my blog, read, pretend to garden, communicate only with those people who have passed the test of being hearable. This means no new people. New people, well, new people could be indecipherable. The risk is immense.
I could wear jeans all the time, move around town too fast to chat, communicate with people entirely in print, watch only what is captioned. I could wallpaper the bubble I often wish I was in and live there forever.
But I think I would be lonely there, even with my accepting, unconcerned dogs. I think the life inside my head would be too small and, after a while, I would forget the sound of my own voice.
I’m not ready for that. Not yet. Probably not for a long time.