The Amazingness of Hearing Loss

A human being is an amazing creature, capable of amazing things: we can think, talk, see, hear, feel pleasure and pain, show compassion, move forwards-backwards-sideways and, as the advertisements say, so much, much more.

Perfect people would operate flawlessly on this scale of amazingness – but do such people really exist? Surely even the most perfect, got-it-all person has something that’s gone off the grid of crème de la crème-ity: rough elbows, thick waist, bad temper, nervous tics, flat feet (and much, much more)?

None of us are perfect – partly because we’d never agree on what being perfect means and partly because we are organic, biological beings. Every aspect of our body is going to change as we grow older, sometimes for the better, often for the worse – and usually unexpectedly.

Our sense of hearing, for example. When it’s working well, hearing is one awesome piece of amazingness. Think of it! If a tree falls in the forest behind your house, you can hear its many sounds – the roar of its fall, the leaves of the surrounding trees vibrating like flags in a stiff breeze and the resounding crash of timber pounding the forest floor. Someone may be yelling “tim-berrrr”!

But with hearing loss, you might not hear all (or any) of this noisy process. The shaking leaves may be at too high a frequency, or the boom of wood hitting earth too low a frequency for your sense of hearing to detect. Speech is drowned out by the background noise. It seems that amazingness has become brokenness.

Or has it? A significant chunk of us have hearing loss – from 20% to 25% of the overall population. If you’re in a busy shopping mall, you don’t have to look too long to find other peeps with hearing loss – hearing aids and cochlear implant sound processors are everywhere. Some may be hidden under hair but others catch the light and gleam from behind an ear.

And it’s this hearing technology that shows the amazingness of a less-than-perfect sense of hearing. It boosts and improves the level and quality of our hearing ability. While most types of hearing loss cannot yet be cured, science has devised ways to address what some see as brokenness, to let us hear that tree falling in the forest and to communicate better with other people. Maybe not in quite the same way as we used to – but no one ever promised that life would be perfect.

We need to celebrate the scientific dreams that have been made real. Having once been cut off from the beauty of sound, we can be grateful for what we now hear. Sometimes we just need to look a bit more closely to find this amazingness.

 

Note: I know that Deaf people embrace their deafness and celebrate Deaf Culture, with its sign languages and customs. I respect and admire their culture, just as they respect the choice of people with hearing loss who choose technology and other strategies help us communicate with spoken language.

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.

2 Comments

  1. Very true. We can still celebrate life with hearing loss. Many people don’t really understand it unless they live with it. But there are things about them I don’t understand…so it goes. Hearing loss is embarrassing though because it cuts you off from others in many ways. People stop talking to you and speak to others, like your spouse, who can keep up with their mumbling, rapid fire speech or soft voice. Television shows become more and more reality TV imitating everyday life with all its background noise and distractions which makes hearing the dialogue difficult or impossible. Voices over public speakers are like foreign languages. It seems like clear, uncluttered speech is a lost art.

    1. Good one, Gael.
      Speaking of TV trying to “imitate life,” what about the many videos, meant to be verbally informational, that add competitive background music/sounds? These are supposed to be attractive to a viewer/customer, but the added sound-track only succeeds in making the spoken word opaque! It’s hard to believe, but some of these even describe hearing products and devices!–and they are meant to be viewed (listened to?) by persons with hearing loss! Furthermore, most usually lack captions! Just browse YouTube for how-to videos about various apps and equipment. . .

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