Are You Different Because You Can’t Hear?

I had six people over for dinner the other night. Among my guests were a couple my husband and I have known for some time. They are lovely people, and the four of us often get together for a night out. These friends know I have a profound hearing loss and they help me by speaking slowly and sitting so that I can see their faces. I consider these people my hearing champions. But they often ask a question that stumps me. How do I cope with a catastrophic hearing loss?

I never know what to say when someone asks me that a question. Do people think I spend my days and nights curled up with a book because I can’t hear? Do people believe I whither and shake because I don’t know if someone is behind me? At bedtime, do I worry about sleeping without my aids and not hearing the alarm on my home security system?

There is truth to all these statements. I tend to be hermit, I jump when someone sneaks up behind me. I thank God that my husband can hear well enough to know if someone has invaded our home. Yet, I don’t think much about coping with my hearing loss. Mostly, I just live, merrily going along, enjoying my life.

I do sometimes wonder what my life would be like with normal hearing. Perhaps I could answer my phone and converse without asking the caller to repeat. It would be romantic to hear my husband, whispering sweet love phrases in my ears. It would be heaven to go to a dance or concert and actually recognize the song that was playing.

I’ve been without normal hearing for at least forty years, perhaps longer. I was diagnosed with hearing loss in my late 20s and had already lost 35% of my hearing. After taking my complete medical history, my doctor did not think I had experienced a sudden hearing loss. Instead, he suggested that I had had hearing loss in childhood and that I might have been born with a hearing deficit.

I don’t know what it’s like to hear normally. There’s mostly silence in my world. A sweet and tranquil quiet that lulls me into a peaceful state, particularly when I want to sit down and concentrate on reading or writing. I like that part of my hearing loss. I can take off my hearing aids and work undisturbed by ambient noise.

There are pitfalls. I can’t hear the buzz of my oven timer going off, telling me the batch of oatmeal raison cookies are ready to come out. I don’t know if my dishwasher is churning or if the washing machine has finished cleaning my favorite pink cotton sweater.

Somehow life goes on in my house. The cookies get baked to mouth-watering perfection, the clothes come out ready to wear. My dishes, knives, and forks, and glassware end up sparkling clean and ready for the dinner table. I figure out what needs to be done and complete tasks without hearing normally.

While meandering through the hearing world I get by, as the song goes, with a little help from hearing aids and from the kind souls who take the time to look at me and slam on the brakes of their fifty-mile-an-hour speech patterns. I don’t miss what has not been a part of me for such a long time. I live, gleaning a little happiness from the simple things life brings my way.


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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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