"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive." Anaïs Nin

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Journey From Mild to Moderate Deafness

As a child, I had a mild hearing loss. I suspect my loss was due to having so many high fevers. I had the measles, mumps and just about every other child hood disease that came along back then. However, it wasn't until I was living in Europe that I obtained my first pair of hearing aids.

I thought I was getting along quite well with my mild hearing loss, but I was the last to know how bad it was actually getting. It's similar to having a vision impairment. We don't realize how bad our vision is becoming until we have our eyes examined and we're prescribed a pair of glasses. When we put the new glasses on, we then realize how bad our vision had become. It is the same with our hearing.

The man I was married to at the time became a mumbler. He said I wasn't listening, and I would accuse him of mumbling. He did a very smart thing one day and made an appointment for me with an Ears, Nose and Throat specialist. I went to the appointment, and after going through the battery of tests, we sat down and discussed what was going on.

My hearing loss had gone from a mild loss to a moderate loss. The doctor rattled off a list of sounds I wasn't hearing, and to my amazement, he nailed it. However, I didn't realize those sounds had faded from my life because it was so gradual. I remembered hearing them at one time, but I couldn't place exactly when they had disappeared.

He then proceeded to take some very cold putty and filled each of my ears with it to make molds for the hearing aids he was prescribing me. These would later fit into each of my ears with a tube for the sound to travel from the hearing aids directly into my ears.

After a couple of weeks, I was called back to come pick up my hearing aids. I had no idea what to expect. After we put them into my ears, we turned them on and ... OH MY WORD... What was that sound??? Where was it coming from? It was a woman walking down the hallway in heels. It was after I left the office and stepped outside that I really experienced the world of sound. I will never forget what I heard while waiting at the bus stop.

I was standing under a magnificent tree that had come alive for the first time. I had stood under this tree many times waiting for the bus, but I never knew the life it held within its branches. I was hearing birds for the first time in many, many years. Not just a few birds, it sounded like thousands of birds. It was beautiful. I decided I was going to take my time and walk through the park instead of taking the bus directly home. I wanted to experience every sound I had been missing. The stream that ran though the park made trickling sounds, the herds of sheep were baaing while grazing through the fields, and the people chatted as they walked by, I listened and experienced each sound with new ears. I savored every moment. It's been about 30 years since that walk, and I'll never forget it.

I was late getting home that evening, and the man I was married to at that time was already there, worried because he hadn't heard from me, and quite annoyed about it. As I went into the kitchen to fix dinner, I actually heard him cursing about how late dinner was going to be. I stuck my head back into the living room and said, "I heard that." He didn't mumble much after that day.

Though that was many years, ago, and several pairs of hearing aids since, today I am deaf from "chronic ear disease" and all the ear infections I've continued to have. I also suspect the aging process is now a major contributing factor.

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