Wow Moments – A Heart Grateful for Hearing

Wow! WOW!

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 wowWOWs  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.

 

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

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Joan Gallant

Another Wow moment. I just listened to my great niece, Taylor Richardson, singing Tomorrow from Annie at Bryant Park on UTube. I am so lucky to be able to hear her!! I wish someone would write a Wow moment with the activation of a cochlear implant!! I still have my doubts that mine will work for me but I am lucky to be able to hear what I can. I can hear birds sing with my hearing aid (not that they have my hearing aid) but I can’t hear thunder (but then that may be a good thing).

Joan Gallant

I don’t see any comments from Wow! moments for those who have had cochlear implants. I have not had mine activated yet but have already run into some minor problems. I think I should have left well enough alone as my quality of life has been good in many ways even though I am very hard of hearing. Time will tell more. Joan

Angie Aspinall

My WOW moments – on getting Bi CROS aids – were being able to hear my footsteps on the pavement as soon as I left the audiologist’s and, best of all, being able to hear the squelch of mud as I walked in the local woods. What an amazing day!

Karen Brockett

Yes wow indeed. Thank you. I sometimes have had to overcome the impulse to apologize for not behaving or functioning more “deaf” or how others think hard of hearing should function! Yes I really have a severe hearing loss even though my speech “sounds normal” and in one to one conversation (in quite-ish environments) I seem to communicate well and with ease. So wow for that and wow for technology that allows me to still be able to get enjoyment from music.

Reid D. Barry

OK, it’s great to be able to hear at all. Having hearing loss means we can appreciate good hearing that much more. Children who hear for the first time through the miracle of modern technology are overcome with joy. We know that hearing aids would not work without some hearing. It also raises the difference between hearing loss and deafness. The deaf have a different culture because they recognize that they are missing one sense. People who have hearing loss (partial) struggle to hear all the time. If you are severe-profound, as I am, this is a major challenge. But… Read more »

Joe

I am so grateful for my new hearing aids – light years improvement over my last pair. I am grateful for all that I can now hear better, my wife, my family, my telephone callers, my iPhone, and the music I can hear with such clarity. I am not grateful for the price I paid but I would remortgage the house to get to hear clearly. My WOW moments include the telecoil and loop technology that I enjoy and advocate for. There is nothing better!

Cathy Kooser

The ability to hear is a gift that I don’t take for granted! :) I’m very appreciative of the ability to interact and connect with the people around me in an ideal listening environment as well as to hear environmental sounds when wearing my hearing devices! I do have to say however, there are times when I also appreciate the silence. In those moments when I need to focus or during my God time and time of prayer I find that silence is “golden!”

Jean Straus

On the other hand, I know research on deaf musicians and hearing aids has shown many do not wear their aids, preferring to hear less and rely on vibrations, rather than listen to the music with the distortion (and feedback) of hearing aids. This I really understand.

Hermine Willey

I am so grateful I am able to hear with my hearing aids, listening in a looped room and using assistive listening technology. Had I not be given the information and education from HLAA (Hearing Loss Association of America) about hearing loss I would be living in a very quiet world feeling all alone. I think some people are not fitted properly with their hearing aids and accept this without going back to their hearing health provider.

Jean Straus

I like what you’ve written-once hearing goes, there can be a greater appreciation of the sound that is left. I have a problem with a friend of mine who hears better than I do, wears two aids all the same, and often doesn’t wear them, saying he appreciates the muted sounds. I find myself getting upset. I am so happy for every sound I can have, while he’s taking sound for granted and shrugging it off. Do you think I’m being unfair to his choice?

Anonymous

Jean, he may be bothered by what he considers the noise that hearing aids provide. My own father prefers to wear his aids at only select times, because he says he likes the silence. To each his own, but don’t let your friend’s preference affect your own joy in hearing.