When the end of the year rolls around, we are pummeled with Best of the Year lists from the media: top movies, tv shows and books of the year, most amazing events in 2019, people who changed the world in 2019, and of course “the most important things that you may not have heard about in 2019 but should have because they are also changing the world”.
Well, I have another one for you. My “Best Of” list isn’t as prestigious as other lists, and the things on it are not changing the world.
They’re changing my life.
My list contains sounds I heard over the past year or that I’d almost forgotten about, because the last time I’d heard them was a million years ago when my hearing loss was only ‘moderate’, not the current level of ‘profound’ that it has become. There are sounds on this list I don’t think I ever heard before my cochlear implant (CI) helped to boost my hearing. Actually, those sounds were there – I just never heard or understood them – and I don’t want to get into another round of “if a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one around, is there actually a noise?” argument.
Perhaps I should change the name of the list to: What I Heard This Year Thanks to My Cochlear Implant & Hearing Aid.
If this article, the one you’re reading, was in a magazine or online story, do you think any hearing person would want to read it? I don’t know, either, but people with hearing loss like to share stuff like this with other people who havehearing loss. And if you don’t know anyone else with hearing loss, let me know and I’ll connect you with somebody.
And a confession – this list contains some sounds that I’ve relearned during the three years since I was implanted in January of 2017. But the thrill is still like new when I hear them.
So, in no particular order:
1) My husband sweeping off our deck. I can hear the sweeping – from inside the house! That knocked my socks off the first time I heard it, and it still does, the swish-swish-swish of the broom. Wow.
2) Music in the grocery store – I never knew that there was music playing in Safeway! My CI picks it up, not my hearing aid side, especially the percussion and chi-chi-chi stuff. Can’t make out the words, but I’m OK with that
3) The cats scratching in the litter, covering up their doo-doo. I can hear this from almost any room in the house, and it’s such a high frequency sound, I can guarantee you I never heard it when I was using two hearing aids. Unless I was watching them do it – and why would I be doing that?
4) Did you know that a refrigerator makes a whiny-beeping warning sound if the door is left cracked open for too long? I could not figure that sound out. Actually, I didn’t figure it out; I was still looking around when my husband came in and immediately closed the fridge door. That’s another thing I’m still not good at – pinpointing exactly where a sound is coming from.
5) Today, on a hike, I heard a low drrrrr-ng sound – kind of like when you drill your tongue behind your upper teeth – coming from the bushes. I have no idea what it was – could have been a frog, a bird, or a very large, loud insect. But the thing is, I heard it and it clearly wasn’t going to come out of the bushes and attack me.
6) I am now hearing and understanding the deeper layers of speech-sounds, even in people I know well. It’s the softer, sibilant sounds and the lovely clicks of word-endings (t, c/k, p, etc.) that failing hearing can’t pick up. And now that I hear these again, I remember that I did hear them a long time ago, and I love them all over again.
7) And many, many more.
Being able to hear and appreciate these sounds does change my world. It gives nuance to my life, fills in the blanks, and provides tiny moments of deliciousness.
I’m grateful for the hearing I have, and for the miracle of hearing technology. I continue to experience small new bits of hearing beauty and hope that I always will. And, as Jon Kabat-Zinn, a professor of medicine and mindfulness, says:
“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.”
Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for Hearing Health & Technology Matters, 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.