Meandering Through A Hearing World

Taking a Hearing Break

We moved to Southwest Florida fifteen years ago to escape the cold and snowy days that northern winters bring on. We can be a bit smog come January. While most northerners are bundled in sweaters, slacks, and wool socks, we enjoy wandering around in shorts and sandals, basking in the sun, while a warm breeze washes over us. But paradise being what it is means our toasty climate attracts tourists. From November to early May, our sweet and quiet haven becomes a temporary home for winter escapees. Our population doubles, which leads to long lines in the grocery store and pharmacy, full restaurants, and grid-locked traffic, all resulting in more noise.

This morning was a prime example. I went to our local supermarket to pick up a prescription and a few grocery items. I was greeted by a long pharmacy line. While queued up, I noticed people pushing grocery carts up and down aisles, loaded with food items. There was the din of voices, conversations on cell phones and with store clerks. There was the patter of feet, squeaky grocery-cart wheels, of clerks hauling metal carts full of supplies. There was the rustle of bags at the checkout register, and the quiet voice of the checkout lady, trying to find out if I found everything I wanted. Yes, I replied, after leaning in and asking her to repeat her question three times. It’s noisy in here, I added. She nodded as she slid my items, one by one, across her scanner.

Outside there was more bedlam in the parking lot; grocery carts clanging, engines coming to life, the sound of horns, more voices, and more cell phones chiming. There was the roar of cars, racing up and down the six-lane highway just a few feet away from the parking lot.

I found my car, loaded my groceries and was on my way quickly. Luckily, I live a few miles from the store, so the haven of the cab of my car was welcoming. I took in a breath. Peace and quiet at last.

When I arrived home and after putting away my groceries, I did what you’re not supposed to do. I removed my hearing aids. My husband tried talking to me. I couldn’t hear him. I don’t have my aids in, I told him. Why not, he asked, incredulously. I needed a moment of silence, I said. You have a great advantage. I hope you realize that, he retorted.

And so it goes. Many, who experience hearing loss, find noise difficult. It isn’t just the background noise that prevents you from hearing conversation. It’s our noisy, everyday world which is full of all kinds of hard to discern sounds that gets to us. So here’s to those suffering from hearing loss. Just take out your aids or turn off your cochlear implants for a few moments and relish what hearing people are denied, a moment of complete and blissful solitude.

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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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