Meandering Through A Hearing World

All I want for Christmas is to hear has been my mantra for some time now. My husband and I kick things up when the calendar turns the page from November 30 to December 1. It’s our month to party, to celebrate, and be with friends and family. But all that involves socializing and going to parties where not an ounce of quiet stirs. For all the fun and merry making, December often becomes my worse hearing month of the year.

Anyone suffering from hearing loss can attest that an evening out in noise equals exhaustion. No matter how much technology we have, no matter what updates we download to our hearing aids and cochlear implants, we all still struggle to hear in noise. My female friends know full well that their soft and sweet voices just don’t rise above merry-making din.

How do I survive it all? I never give myself the option to stay home. Hearing professionals will tell you the importance of socializing. Going to parties and meeting up with other people helps us avoid isolation, anxiety, and possibly dementia. While we’re out and about, we exercise our hearing muscles and keep the hearing centers in our brains alert.

I know how much my hearing has diminished over the years. With background noise at full volume, I no longer hear full sentences. When conversing at a party, I go for context, piecing together words, tone of voice and body language to make sense of it all. Sometimes I’m right. Often I’m not. But when I misunderstand or misinterpret someone, I try to have a good laugh over it.

There are the tricks that I’ve learned that might help you cope with background noise. In restaurants when possible, I sit at a corner table with my back against the wall. Booths are a godsend as they tend to block noise. At a party, standing on the periphery of a room helps. I find that people gravitate to me. I’ve taken people by the arm and guided them off to a quieter area (if one exists) so that we can converse one-on- one. When all else fails, my husband and I dance. You don’t need to hear to dance but what fun it is, to kick up one’s heals, a respite if you will from the struggles of hearing.

As I write this, I’m polishing my finger nails in preparation of going out to another party. There will be music and the voices of fifty other merry makers, all talking at once. I will feel tired by the time I return home later tonight, but I will have meandered through the hearing world, trying my best to have as normal a hearing life as possible.

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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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