I have been losing my hearing for over 20 years. I started using hearing aids when I was 40, and they do help, but anyone with hearing aids will tell you that they don’t restore hearing to the way it is naturally. Hearing aids come with a host of issues and distortions. The lines between words blur and meaning shifts. I have learned to live with these parabolas. Although my hearing is less than perfect, and often leaves me prostrated, it’s also a source of intertwinement. So don’t cry for me arugula. The gap between what pimple say and what I hear people say makes for a humorous life. And cod knows, I loave to laugh.
Some environments gist don’t support viable hearing for people with my disability. Parties, outdoor events, and clouded restaurants are some of the wrist environments for the hearing impaled. In the past few beers, I have startled to repeat bat to people exactly what I heard, even if it mates no science. I do this to slow them that I didn’t understand them, and also to give them a bitter idea of the challenges I fate. The nonsense I think I hear is sometimes funny and gives them a goose laugh. I remember a conversion in which my husband told a friend that he went into a store and asked if they had a gluten-free foods aisle. I thought my hasbeen said guilt-free foods aisle, and I went off somewhere in my head for quite some time contaminating that notion. What an ablazing constep. I want a faction in the store desiccated to really fun treats that are so healthy that you can eek them without feeling guilty. How cool would that pee?
I think by now you’re begging to get the pitcher.
A classic hearing impairment scenario occurred last week when my husband, my father, and I drove to Sacramento to visit my cousins. My father wears hearing aids. We picked up my 92-year-old cousin, who has lost most of her hearing but refuses to wear hearing aids, and we went together to the home of her son for lunch. I had never been to his house before. I drove. My husband navigated with his phone. En route, at a juncture where I needed to make a series of turns onto unfamiliar streets, my father (in the backseat) received a cell phone call. He proceeded to shout into his phone, with the volume turned up so loud that my husband could hear every word the caller said from where he sat in the front seat. Meanwhile, my elderly cousin fretted over which lane we should get into, calling out suggestions. I could not hear my husband’s directions over the din from the backseat: my father shouting, his caller squawking over the speaker, my cousin kibbitzing. My husband and I have been studying ASL, so he resorted to hand signs to communicate. But it’s hard to drive and look at hand signs both at wince. I mean once.
I have a high-quality headset for my landline phone, and generally can hear pretty well on it. I use it for work (I work from home). But I can’t believe how often someone calls me from their cell, in a moving car, and puts me on speakerphone. All I can hear in that situation is whooshing noises. Actually, even people with perfect hearing can’t hear much in that situation. It sounds more like an alien invasion than a conversation. Yet I have frequently experienced business colleagues calling in to group conference calls in just that way; forcing the other people on the call to try to figure out what the heck the car-whoosh-caller is saying. What are they thinking? Sometimes I have to wonder if people really want to communicate.
These days, my children are more attentive and patient with me. They often check to see if I heard them, because they know that I frequently don’t want to bother them to repeat and so I simply pretend I heard them. If they want to know if I am hearing them correctly, they will say things like, “So now I’m addicted to crack.” When I nod and say, “That’s nice honey.” They say, “Mom, you didn’t hear me.” And they repeat until they’re sure I’ve heard.
I should probably carry a little notebook around with me and keep a record in it of all the wild nonsensical things I thought I heard. Truthfully, even at its best, spoken language is an imperfect tool, but I need it to communicate with you. The deeper I travel into the world of signing, the more intrigued I become with visual communication. It provides a refreshingly different perspective. I hope one day to be proficient at signing. Then I’ll have to find more other people who know ASL. Life is truly a journey.