As of this week, wow has taken on a new meaning, thanks to a book called Help, Thanks, Wow. I picked up this short and unusual book on prayer simply because it’s written by one of my favorite, funniest authors, Anne Lamott (to whom I’m eternally grateful for this new life-dimension). She describes wow as:
“… often offered with a gasp, a sharp intake of breath when we can’t think of another way to capture the sight of shocking beauty ..of a sudden unbidden insight…or by the miraculous…”
The dictionary defines ‘wow’ as an interjection used to express wonder, amazement, or great pleasure – or a noun meaning an outstanding success. But wow-invoking moments are not just the uppercase WOW’s as in seeing the mountains for the first time, but also the lowercase wow of a well-done peanut butter sandwich.
And because most of my trains of thoughts ultimately head in one direction, I started thinking about wow moments related to hearing and hearing loss. I had one almost immediately.
I realized that in striving to live successfully with hearing loss, I too often use negative phrasing such as, “I can’t hear very well.” I fixate on its glum aspects: my hearing aid gives feedback while I’m brushing my teeth, the constant need to remind people to face me, face me, face me. My mantra has been that our goal, rather than hearing well, which may be unattainable, should be to communicate to our best ability, using speechreading, amplification, text alternatives, blah-de-blah-blah.
Well, guess what? I also like to hear. Yes, I do! And because I can! And that’s the WOW!
I don’t hear everything, of course. Some things I can’t hear at all, like a cat purring (unless I lay my head right on its tummy, and then I have to pick cat fur out of my hearing aid) or that stupid triangle instrument at the back of the orchestra. Other things I hear less well than ‘hearing’ people.
But the wow is in realizing that I prefer to hear over not hearing, and that I’m grateful to hear as well as I do. And even more wow-y: I’m not going to apologize for it. That might sound strange to a person who doesn’t have hearing loss. But those of us in the hearing advocacy world sometimes feel we have to downplay our pursuit of better hearing, worrying that we might insult or upset those who are deaf and prefer to remain so.
But hearing is not a political act; it’s one of my natural senses that I choose to pursue and to enhance – it’s included in how I want to live and communicate.
Some wow–WOWs from my personal inventory:
- That moment after you have taken a mop and broom to your hearing aid (or CI) – changing your wax guard, unplugging the air vent, changing batteries, blowing moisture out of the ear tubing, or a tune-up at the hearing care place. WOW, you hear so much better, it’s like gaining back a few decibels!
- Hearing the consonants in perfectly articulated speech. This is a rare event for me. When my own father (who was forced to take elocution lessons by his teacher mother) and Alan Rickman speak, I can hear all the (say these to yourself softly) kuh’s and puh’s and tuh’s. It sounds like elves giggling in the bushes. Oh, wow.
- After years of not hearing my speech too clearly, my hearing aids have given me back my s’s and each time I hear one, it’s a wow-delicious moment.
- One day, when traffic noise was particularly irritating, I wondered what it might be like to trade in my car for a Fred Flintstone car. The wow-funny moment came in imagining the sound of thousands of pattering bare feet running along the highway to work in the morning.
- Hearing and seeing the geese in flight over Lake Huron was a thousand beating wing-wow moments.
- Cicadas would be a wow moment if I knew for a fact I was hearing them. Lately, on three different occasions when sitting on our veranda in late summer, the Hearing Husband has told me I was hearing cicadas. But on all three occasions the sounds were different. (A propos of nothing, apparently the cicada’s sound can reach 120 dB, enough to cause human hearing damage if the thing is close to the ear.) But here’s the wow moment – I like the look of the word ‘cicada’ and especially how it’s pronounced: shi-kay-da. Isn’t that beautiful? That’s an onomatopoeia (a word that sounds like it means) if ever I saw/heard one!
- When you change a dead battery and then you still can’t hear anything and you start to panic and – just before falling to the floor screaming like the Wicked Witch of the West in her dying scene – you try another battery and then wow, you realize your hearing aid isn’t broken after all.
- You get off the phone and carry on for a few minutes, not realizing you’re still in T-switch mode. When you finally say something, you can’t hear yourself! Oh-gawd-almighty-it’s finally happened-I’m deaf! As you clap your hands to your head, you hit the t-switch and sound floods back into your head. A lowercase wow, but a wow nonetheless.
I love being able to hear. It doesn’t matter how much or how well. Realizing this takes me beyond being ‘hard of hearing’ into the realm of gratitude for being able to hear at all. Wow.