Am I a Hearing Person Wannabe?

The green-eyed monster rises up in me every once in a while. I can’t help it—it’s human nature. My human nature.

There are occasional moments when, stabbed in the heart with envy, I look at a hearing person (someone with no hearing loss) and think, “I wish I were you.”

Usually it’s more like, “I wish I could do that!”  Because truly, I don’t want their looks, money, career, body shape or Twitter followers. All I want, every once in a while, for even just a few minutes, is their ability to hear. To “get it” in real time, in the moment, unaided, without struggle, without working at it.

OK—truth? Throwing out my arms to the gods of honesty, I admit that I have flights of fantasy when I really really really want to be a hearing person. Not a person who hears well with hearing aids or cochlear implant, but an au naturel hearing person.

In those green-eyed moments, I engage in a little bargaining. I’d scrub heaven’s floor in the morning and polish the gates of hell in the afternoon—just so that I could experience effortless hearing. This is deep confessional stuff for a woman who, for the past 20 years, has been writing and talking about how it’s possible and doable to live well with hearing loss. We just need to learn our stuff, keep our elbows up and be ready with a good sidekick and occasional head-butt to smash through the barricades to  better communication.

My friend Myrtle says, “Hearing people do what they do best—they hear.” They’re not more worthy than me just because they can hear the ‘T’ in ‘pizza’.  (Bet you’re pronouncing ‘pizza’ to yourself right now, aren’t you?)  I don’t feel inferior; my sense of self-awesomeness is intact. But I like saying things correctly and the fact that they can hear that T-in-pizza amazes me. I only found out about it when a friend said she couldn’t stand hearing me say pee-zuh anymore. Why didn’t my mom tell me how to say it right when I was a kid? It would have saved years of peezuh-eating.

Since then, I sometimes ask friends how to say words if I’m insecure about pronunciation, although I can spell and define them with ease.

“Does ‘gargantuan’ have a hard ‘g’ or soft ‘g’ or both?”

(Pause)  “I don’t even know what that means.”

“It means huge, really big.”

“Well, then use ‘big’. Because I know it’s got a hard ‘g’.”

So what do hearing people do so well that I’m willing to deliver meals on wheels to Hell’s Angels to be like them? They can talk through walls, for starters. A kitchen to living room conversation is nothing for these folks. They can hear anything fall out of their pockets; if there’s no other sound, I may hear my car keys smack the pavement, but the soft plfth of a leather glove? No way.

Hearing people can carry on a conversation while reading the horoscope, or doing anything else. If someone wants to talk to me, I have to stop and give them my full attention. Going to the movies is tougher for me because if I whisper questions to my partner, I don’t hear the response—which he usually doesn’t give because he knows I won’t understand him anyway.

People with perfectly-functioning cochleas can chat while lying in bed at night—in the dark—and then start right up again in the morning before they even open their eyes, without fumbling for hearing technology. At dinner parties, they don’t slow down the group discussion or put it into reverse with frequent pleas of “what did she say” or “who said that?” or “what are we talking about now?”  They can understand—and you won’t believe this—people talking behind them! They can make sense of the brogue of a bearded Scot and guys from Newfoundland. They can identify a bird by its birdsong—and what tree it’s in.  red beard

I would love not to have small children go shy and silent when their mommy tells them, “You have to get the attention of Gigi (short for Grandma Gael) before you speak to her.  And face her. And speak up.”  What 2 ½ year old is going to say anything after that?!

Usually these things don’t bother me, but it’s a secret guilty pleasure to give in to my inner Green-Eyed Monster now and again. And I don’t want to visit heaven or hell—or Hell’s Angels—any time soon. In the meantime, I’ll keep kicking down those barriers and asking people for help with the tough words to hear.

Is the “th” pronounced in ‘clothes’? Wed-nez-day or Wenz-day? Do you say the ‘n’ at the end of column?  How about….

 

Photo courtesy of facialhairhandbook.com

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.

14 Comments

  1. I love the Pizza with a “T” comment. Yes! My 4 kids get a kick out of some of my unique pronunciations – like rhinoceros – with a “K”, of course. And I said “Chick-a-go” for the longest time before I finally realized that wasn’t how “Chicago” was pronounced. As usual, you perfectly describe my experiences as someone born with severe/profound HL.

  2. I’ve just been discussing with a colleague the importance of staying positive when explaining how my hearing impairment impacts on a range of situations. Thanks for reminding me that even the Green-Eyed Monster is a perfectly natural human reaction to a situation.
    Cheers Michele

  3. Hi Gael, these are brilliant observations and as a hearing person suffering from hearing loss in midlife, I’ve never had to think about the correct pronunciation of these things before. Thanks for sharing this and for simply giving me an opportunity to reflect on how life is for others.

  4. As a hearing person, I’ve often thought the perfect solution would be to have ears do what eyes do. They can open and shut. See or NOT see. We live in an apartment community and the noise from the people above us, the baby next door, the dogs across the street, the new construction, the cat meowing at 2am, 3am, 4am, ………………………..I sometimes envy those who get to experience silence, focus, concentration, un-interrupted sleep. I don’t want to minimize the enormous challenges of the deaf. The world is designed for hearing people. Your post is bold and honest. My eyes may not be green, but sometimes they are hazel.

  5. Excellent column. While other people day-dream of winning the lottery I day-dream of having perfect hearing. I envy people who laugh because they heard something funny instead of because everyone else is laughing.

    1. That’s where the fine art of self-identification comes in, Ken. But some times the punch line loses its funniness when it is repeated a couple of times.

      1. Gael you got it oin one try. It never seems funny to me Shawn someone has had to repeat the joke just for me because I couldn’t hear it the first time.

  6. We just spent 2 weeks with our daughter and our 2 grandchildren (8 & 5 years old). It is bad enough living 3,000 miles away and not seeing them often. But now that I am in the same room with them, I do not understand them more than 50% of the time. Saying I am frustrated and disappointed is an understatement. I guess I am a little less frustrated as I realize my hearing husband, also, does not understand them. Sometimes their parents do not understand them, even though most of the time they are conditioned to understand them. These kids do not speak clearly and both receive speech therapy at their public school. Knowing all of this makes me feel slightly better about not understanding them. But it doesn’t help in the morning when I am the only adult awake and these two very picky eaters are trying to tell me explicitly what they want for breakfast. Their frustration threshold is much lower than mine, even though they try to understand that I cannot hear and understand them. They do however return the love I shower on them.

  7. Gael, wonderful descriptions! I can’t wait to hear how your future cochlear implant allows you to do some of the things you mentioned. I look forward to your joy when you can, under the right conditions, hear that “T” in pizza, identify the song of a warbler, and hear the person behind you. It’s a joy you would never experience without having a hearing loss.

    1. Speaking about birds. I love to have the windows open in the spring and the summer so I can listen to the birds outside since I received my implant eight years ago. Someone asked me if it drove me nuts hearing them all the time. My response: “Nope. I’m enjoying too much being able to really hear them again after so many years.”

  8. Gael,
    Well, considering your Green-Eyed Monster is sitting right next to your Gargantuan Heart-of-Gold, me thinks you come out ahead in so many ways! Just saying. (Thanks for another great story!)
    Dee

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