It Is Not Hearing Loss That Is Important!

My husband and I received an invitation to attend a party at a local club this week. We were told there’d be a delicious Italian buffet, music, plenty of wine, and the company of some people we knew. It all sounded like a wonderful night, so we dressed and headed out.  Upon arriving, I found it difficult to hear amidst the din of voices mixing with the sultry music that a jazz band was playing. But I was determined to make the most of the evening.

We mingled and ended up sitting with a nice group of people. After talking for a while with them, another couple joined us. I noticed his cane, how his wife was helping him maneuver into his chair and realized the man had sight problems. We introduced ourselves and discovered, he was eighty-five and had macular degeneration, the disease had robbed him of his sight. My inquisitive physician husband queried him about the treatment options he had tried. He replied by saying he’d seen many doctors who recommended lasers and injections. The latest in medical know-how had failed to restore his sight. He had been blind for several years.

It was the matter-of-fact way he said it all that struck me. He sounded very accepting of his condition as if his blindness had become part of him, like an arm or leg. He changed the subject and wanted to know about us, where we lived, where we were from. After filling him in on our lives, we learned he had once owned a very successful business. He had children, a beautiful home, and a lovely wife, all the good things, he pointed out.

As the evening wore on, it was getting harder and harder for me to hear. This is not unusual for me. I had a very busy day and was tired.  Attempting to hear in noise takes a great deal of focus, concentration and energy, and my stamina was running low. So instead of listening to the conversation near me, I watched the lovely couple sitting opposite us. His wife had gone to scout out the food offerings on the buffet, came back and told her husband what was there. After stating his preferences, she popped up to get his food. While she was gone, I asked him if he had summer plans. He told me he and his wife had signed up for a cruise to several European ports. Afterward, they would be staying on for a few days in Italy.

“Wow,” I said. “You’re planning a trip to Europe and you can’t see.”

“Well, my wife can see,” he said. “And she really wants to go. Why not? I’ve always liked traveling.”

I suddenly felt more energized, hearing his words, how upbeat he sounded. My tiredness melted. Anyone suffering from a disability, whether it be hearing loss, a vision problem or a physical immobility knows the importance of a positive attitude. And there it was, sitting across the table from me. The man who couldn’t see me or anyone for that matter was having a great time, talking, eating, drinking, and listening to music as if nothing else mattered.

Later, after we had eaten, the couple got up and danced. The wife guided the gentleman to the dance floor but once there, he took her in his arms and led her, most likely as he had done all their married lives. And as I watched them sway in perfect rhythm to the music, I knew he would be okay, that troubles in life, no matter what their shape or form, mean little. What’s important to those with hearing loss or any other health issue is a desire to engage in life despite what is wrong with us. We need to toss away the notion of medical issues telling us what we cannot do and adopt the idea that being satisfied with who we are, despite our hearing troubles, will make us happy.

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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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