The audiologist looks to be about twenty. She’s also got a doctorate and trains audiology students. She understands the intricacies of sound, all about tone and volume and a dozen nuances normal people don’t know or care about. She does the remarkable work of activating and programming people’s cochlear implants. She is highly skilled, occupying a rare place in the hearing treatment world.
She is also oddly fascinated by me. Because I do things, she says. “It’s so good that you are still doing things.” I hear the word still, fold it into thirds, and put it in my pocket. Yes. I am still doing things.
We talk about the things I am doing and how, so often, there are situations where my hearing impairment risks embarrassment. I told her about going to a public hearing to speak a few weeks ago, before my new implant was up and running. When I realized my name would be called by someone on the far side of the room, I worried that I’d miss it and there was no one there to nudge me. Jan, he called your name.
“Oh, she said, I’d worry about being embarrassed.” But, as I told her, the choice then is to not go. Embarrassment on one hand, showing up as a flawed person on the other. And she appreciated this, over-appreciated it really, because she was fascinated that I still do things. Meanwhile, I marveled at how her deep technical knowledge left out the potential for acute embarrassment and humiliation that is such a centerpiece of hearing loss.
I don’t blame her. It’s not like all of us over here in hearing impaired world like to talk about it. I made a fool of myself last week.
When I left the audiologist’s office, I was glad that I was still doing things and that I was the object of a young person’s fascination. She’s really old and she’s still doing things. Maybe the young doctor will suspect that her other elderly patients are still doing things and ask them. Maybe she’ll be impressed at how tough and resilient we are – us old folks who soldiered through some really hideous mistakes and miscommunication so we could still do things.
Many of us are fascinating.