Listicle – my new word of the day. List + article = listicle.
You’re reading one right now – a hearing loss listicle (go ahead, say that tongue-twister out loud) – about the little sounds we can hear thanks to amplification.
Sometimes a simple sound can make me pause, grateful and surprised, “I wouldn’t be able to hear THAT without hearing aids.” In all the hoopla surrounding amplification, we have to remind ourselves why we spend so much time and energy and money on our hearing aids and cochlear implants.
The alternative is not being able hear these life-sounds. And once we’ve had the joy of them, losing them to hearing loss can be painful. I’m not talking about the big stuff – music, laughter, voices – but those little sounds that add audible significance to our day. When they disappear or become fractured with hearing loss, we miss them. We forget them.
Hearing technology can help give us back those sounds, even if we did lose their memory for a while. And it gives us new sounds that can take us to our knees in amazement. My friend Bev Biderman, author of Wired for Sound: A Journey into Hearing, talks of sitting on the kitchen floor examining a plastic grocery bag after her cochlear implant had been ‘turned on’. Bev repeatedly squeezed it and let it expand, mesmerized by its crinkly unremembered sounds. We’ve all seen those five-hankie YouTube videos showing CI activations where people hear their own voice or their child’s voice for the first time. For years, I couldn’t tell the story of hearing crickets for the first time without my mother going into dry-sob heaving. Crickets, for cripes sake.
Here’s 10 of my favorite sound reasons, although I could easily do a Top 100 or Top 1000 list.
#1 – Cats. You want to hear cats whether you like them are not. If you don’t like cats, hearing them helps you to find them and then throw them out the door. As a cat lover, I love my cats’ meowing, although I can’t always hear it because of a meow’s high frequency. And while purring is lower frequency, it’s also just plain quiet unless the cat (preferably not the 18-pounder) is on my shoulder, purring into my hearing aid.
#2 – Phones. Whether landline or cell, we want to know the second someone is calling. If we don’t answer that call or text immediately, civilization will collapse. Think how world history might have changed if people had got the message earlier. Battles might have been won, lives saved, romances started. Answering that ring, buzz or vibration means the caller won’t hang up and go on to Plan B, leaving you behind
#3 – Footsteps. Anybody’s, including your own. It’s an odd sensation not hearing my footsteps when I get up in the morning or when I run deaf to protect my hearing aids from the elements. When feet make soundless contact with the wood floor or the pavement, only that feeling keeps you from floating away. With amplification, I can sometimes hear other people’s footsteps approaching, although the thumping vibrations help alert me.
#4 – Sirens. This is a no-brainer. Apparently, deaf people have excellent driving records due to their increased visual vigilance. I’m not deaf, but I am always on alert to any flashing lights. Not eagle-eyed enough, I guess, because sirens still seem to come out of nowhere, making me jump out of my skin.
#5 – Sounds coming out of someone’s mouth. To me, spoken words are precious, jewels of connection. Even when they’re boring or silly. I could do without the wordless mouth-sounds, like burps, gurgles and food-mushing, but I’ll take them as part of the package.
#6 – Knocks, Raps, and Dingy-Dongs. At the door. Don’t know how many times I’ve heard my friends calling up the stairs because I hadn’t heard the door knock. (And I’d apparently left the door open, so aren’t I lucky they were my friends?) Being able to hear the doorbell still gives me a thrill. Of course, I use an Alertmaster system which sets off a flashing light. This is effective only if I’m in the same room as the Alertmaster and if I’ve remembered to change the battery. My next house is going to be hardwired for sound.
#7 – Food. I never heard the Rice Krispies snap-crackle-pop when I was a kid. I could hear it now, if my hearing aid was an inch above the bowl and if I wanted to eat the stuff, which I don’t. I love the sounds of chopping fresh vegetables, spreading stuff on toast and water pouring into glasses, especially with my gurgle jug that delights my little nephew Jack. We pour the water and we laugh.
#8 – Wind. In the trees, or in anything. I know that wind itself doesn’t make a noise. The movement of air sets things vibrating and they make the noise. Trees, grass, buildings. Gentle breezes slightly moving the leaves usually don’t reach my ears. I need something a little louder….a gale-force, howling wind works well.
#9 – Whispering. When someone with a familiar voice whispers loudly into my left ear, I understand them. I assume most hearing people love ear-whispering, but my people – the people with hearing loss – prefer our whisperers to be facing us. We can read the lips, and it reduces the chance of their spitting on our hearing technology.
#10 – Fingers snapping, toes tapping, fire hissing, tongue clicking. Just because. They sound good.
What’s on your of Top 10 list of favorite amplified sounds? Or sounds you would like to hear with hearing aids or cochlear implants? Write your own list, stare at it, and be grateful.