Recently, there was an article online stating more teenagers are having hearing problems, brought on by listening to music too loudly through headphones, etc. To those of you who can keep your hearing by making smarter choices, I say this, "PRESERVE YOUR HEARING!"
I wish I could hear. Seriously, I do. I've had a hearing loss my entire life, in both ears. It wasn't brought on by listening to music too loudly or being around heavy equipment or loud gunfire - it's just one of the things "wrong" with me that I've had to deal with my entire life.
When I was about nine or 10 years old, Mom and I were coming out of an appointment with the audiologist during which the doctor had told my mother I did in fact have a significant hearing loss, but the cause was indeterminable and they wouldn't ever know until an autopsy. As we walked to the car, I asked my mom, "Did we make the appointment for my autopsy?" I didn't know what one was - CSI (or any of its 85 varieties) wasn't on television back then.
I've been told many things about my hearing loss over the years. I would be deaf by the time I was 18. I would need hearing aids by the time I entered high school. I would need hearing aids by the age of 21. My hearing will get worse and eventually I'll be deaf - before I'm 40. So far, none of the medical predictions have come true. Thank you, Jesus. How I'm able to sing - on key, no less - is a mystery. I shouldn't be able to carry a tune with my hearing loss. Yet, I do.
My hearing loss has been a hindrance over time. I always had to sit towards the front in classrooms, auditoriums, church, else I couldn't hear. Someone can be talking to me, but if I'm not looking at them or if they don't already have my attention, I won't hear them. Part of my hearing loss is a disconnect from my ears to my brain...I hear a noise (talking) but my synapses aren't firing that someone is talking to me. It's more like a mosquito buzz. Countless times people have said, "Val? Val. Val! VAL!" after they've already asked a question, or in some cases told me all but their life story, and I haven't heard a word of it. It's not that I'm not interested or that I'm distracted, I simply didn't hear it. And song lyrics - Lord have mercy, let's not even go there.
Higher-pitched sounds are out of range for me. I can't hear watch alarms (does anyone even wear a watch anymore?), certain cell phone beeps or ring tones, crickets - all out of range. Sometimes Brent will hear something and ask me what that noise is. I don't hear a noise. "You don't hear that?!" Baby. You've been with me for almost 10 years. No, I don't hear that. Or most other noises. (But utter a swear word under your breath, and I hear it from the next room!) After Brent and I moved into our house, we were sleeping in the basement as our original idea was to have it set up as a suite. There was a cricket in the basement for a week, but Brent never said anything. He knew I couldn't hear it, and he new if I were aware of it's presence, I wouldn't rest (or let him rest) until he found and killed it.
I have this weird habit of rubbing my feet together before I fall asleep at night. When we were first married, I didn't even realize Brent knew it was my habit. One night, I was rubbing my feet together, and Brent moved his leg to smother my movements. "Am I shaking the bed?" I asked.
"No. The noise is keeping me awake."
"What? It makes noise when I do that?" I have been rubbing my feet together for years....and I thought all the while it was my silent pre-sleep ritual.
My hearing loss also causes me to misinterpret words or phrases that are spoken. For instance, if someone says the word "place", I might hear "base", etc. Or, I could hear something completely and totally random. It happens. As a teenager, one Sunday in church, I was talking with my friend, Lizza. "There's urine on the pew!" she said.
"WHAT??!! EW!! Urine?!"
She looked at me, quizzically. "Val? What did you hear me say?"
"There's urine on the pew."
"No-" she pointed, "There's a string on the pew."
Several times I have to ask people to repeat themselves. It's really embarrassing when I have to ask a third, or even fourth time, for someone to say the same thing again in the hopes I might finally hear them. Soft-spoken doctors are the worst. "Mumblemumblemumblemumblemumble for years." Um - ether you just diagnosed something serious, or you told me a fishing story.....I didn't hear any of it.
This morning, Brent was talking to me from another room and the radio was on. Yes, a recipe for hearing-disasters. Background noise of any kind makes it near impossible for me to hear anything other than the background noise. Brent said something to me, but what I heard was "Thee skip boo diah fear hip." I stood, I pondered, I tried to relate to to context....yet my reply was, "I really wish I could hear." All the time I'm asking people, "What did you just say?" because I know they couldn't have possibly said what I just heard.
Then there are people, who even after I reveal my hearing issues to them and ask for their cooperation in trying to accommodate it, continue to mumble, turn away from me when they speak, never enunciate, speak too quietly - and I get really annoyed. I liken it to if my arms were broken, and they insisted on trying to play catch with me. They would just stand there and keep throwing the ball. Numskull! My arms are broken! But in real life - Numskull! I can't hear you!
I'm sure over the next several years, my hearing will significantly worsen, and I very well may lose it altogether. Well before my time, I will be that woman who shouts, "WHA? HUH?" and squints and leans to the side to try to hear what someone may or may not have spoken.
So do me a few favors. If I "ignore" you, remember my ailment and realize I probably didn't hear you at all. And by all means - do not listen to music blaring loud, always wear ear protection when you use firearms, and don't expose yourself to awful elephants. Oh, sorry, I could've sworn you said awful elephants. What was that? Oh right - harmful elements.
Did you say something?