Ask me how my summer has been, and I will be honest: it’s been a mixed bag. Some great fun, sure, but it’s also the summer when I got a new hearing aid AND a new cochlear implant sound processor. AND new apps on my phone that stream them. All within a few weeks!
Summer stress: device adjustments, sound levels, hearing assessments, too loud, not loud enough, beeps coming from everywhere, and tinnitus glowing red.
At times like these, I actively wish I could pick a different condition, preferably one not too painful, and revert to being a hearing person. With a quiet head. Yes, the green-eyed monster rises up every once in a while. I can’t help it.
I look at people with no hearing loss and think, “You don’t even appreciate how good you’ve got it! Good hearing is wasted on you!”
I don’t want to be them. I don’t want their looks, money, career, body shape or Instagram followers. All I want, every once in a while, is their ability to hear. To just relax and “get it” in real time, in the moment, unaided, without working at it. My hot fantasy is to throw off my hearing aid and sound processor and breathe the sounds of life into my ears. Naturally, easily.
Sometimes, 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 a deep confession from the person who, for the past 25 years, has been writing and talking about how to live skillfully with hearing loss. We just need to learn our stuff, keep our elbows up and be ready with a good sidekick and head-butt to break down the barriers to better communication.
My friend Myrtle told me years ago that “Hearing people do what they do best—they hear.” They can’t help it. But they’re not more worthy than me just because they can hear the ‘T’ in ‘pizza’. (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 wasn’t I told this as a kid? It would have saved me years of peezuh-eating. Even now, with enhanced electronic hearing, I still sometimes ask friends how to say words.
“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 can hearing people do so well that I cannot, even with the world’s best devices?
They can talk through walls. A kitchen to living room conversation is nothing for these folks. (Wow.)
They can hear and understand you without looking at you, while they’re checking their phone, for example. (Multitask-hearing.)
They can have a convo in the dark. (Saves on electricity.)
They can follow the flow in a group conversation. (An exciting superpower!)
They can tell you where a sound is coming from. (Are they making it up?)
They can also find quiet when they want it, because there’s no orchestra playing in their head. (I want me some of that!)
I’m grateful for my technology and what it does for me; i.e., I now know that “th” is only sometimes pronounced in ‘clothes, and that ‘n’ at the end of column is silent.
Yet – it’s a comforting and guilty pleasure to occasionally give in to my Green-Eyed Monster. But since I don’t plan on visiting heaven or hell any time soon, I’ll keep punching out those barriers and asking people for help with the tough words.
Thanks for listening to my rant. I hope you’re having a great summer.