Several years ago I was in the mandatory diversity class that most employers force you to take. My concept of diversity is not being too big an idiot with anyone. Color, creed, gender, none of it matters: just be polite to everyone.
So, to make a longish story short, my coworker, who is still my friend to this day, was sitting next to me when the instructor asked if anyone at the table would like to disclose that they were disabled. I raised my hand, and felt an immediate jab in my ribs. My friend, who is Latina, gave me the full Elaine Benes treatment: “No way. Knock it off. You are not disabled.”
I slapped my disabled veteran identification card down on the table in front of her with a smile on my face. She was horrified. “I have hearing loss from my time in the Navy. It’s not bad, but I do have serious ringing in my ears.”
The instructor was now in a quandary of Biblical proportions: do I chastise the Latina or apologize to the disabled vet? We were both laughing now, so it passed without need to act. That’s how friends deal with awkward stuff.
I mention it only because I could still hear pretty well back then. The intervening two decades have not been so good on that front.
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Many years ago, the V.A. adjudged me to have tinnitus, and gave me hearing aids to help deal with that issue. A few years after that, they said it was worse, and gave me a disability rating of 0% on the hearing issue as well. That meant that they knew it was service connected, and it would get worse. This past month, I had a full exam, and the hearing was much worse. New hearing aids were ordered – and they had Bluetooth capability.
I’ve had them now for 10 days. You may have seen this ad. It’s exactly how it is when you have hearing loss. Including the look on his face. More than that, there is a lot of anger because you can’t hear and obviously other people should be speaking more loudly. Here it is:
My problems were exacerbated by the fact that I worked in a place that was very noisy. Lots of ventilation racket and white noise generators. For those of you with hearing loss, you know how awful that can be. As a result, I quit wearing my hearing aids at work years ago. Since I wasn’t wearing them at work, I quit wearing them altogether after a time. Yeah, nobody’s fault but my own. Yet it began to isolate me even more. I got a lot of names wrong, heard things that were crazy sometimes – but it was just my brain trying to piece together the fragments of the sounds around me.
Last year we moved to a new building. A quiet building. I began to really notice the loss of hearing when the vents weren’t roaring all the time. I resolved to get my hearing rechecked and get new hearing aids.
In the past ten days, I now realize that one of my female coworkers isn’t totally silent. I can hear her soft voice over the divider.
My dog, whom I love dearly, makes music as she walks: I’d lost track of the fact that her tags jingle.
Paper crinkles. My God, what a simple thing to forget.
The floorboards in my old house creak all the time. I love that new noise.
I can hear jets in the sky again.
I can hear my wife without being angry that she speaks so softly. Her soft voice is a gentle caress on my soul in times of darkness. I need that voice.
I can hear clocks ticking.
Most of all, I can hear the blessing of my actions again. Coffee cups clinking, drops from the shower hitting the curtain as I warm it up, the rattle of popcorn in my snack bowl at night.
If you have hearing loss, or live with someone that seems to have that problem, go get an exam. Or get them to an exam. Hearing aids are very small now, and do amazing things. Most people are completely unaware that I even wear them. Heck, I forget I have them on – they are that comfortable.
I’m thankful for my newly restored hearing. It’s nice to be back in the world of jangling keys and sparrows.
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