My ears don’t work.
My hearing loss was probably inevitable, since the myriad doctors I’ve seen about this issue can’t seem to find any trauma or other physical explanation for why I cannot hear well. My current medical team seems to think that it’s neurological, and if that’s the case, then there’s not really anything I can do. I can wear hearing aids, but that’s about it.
And the hearing aids are not exactly the best solution. It’s not that they don’t do anything, but that they don’t do enough. Nothing I do will ever be “enough,” and that makes me angry because I used to be able to hear, so I remember what things sound like. In short, I know what I’m missing.
Hearing aids are an imperfect solution. The technology is improving all the time, but the fact remains that in order to function somewhat normally, I need to have tiny machines stuck into my head at all times. In some countries, I can be classified as a Cyborg, which is kind of fun.
Because they are machines, they can break down. My current set is currently “in the shop” because one side died and the other side was protesting something. I dropped them off at the doctor’s office yesterday and probably won’t get them back for a week or more.
I can’t hear.
I can hear SOME things. Loud noises, obviously, but unless What’s-His-Name is enunciating carefully (and… he does not ever do this), I can’t understand what he’s saying to me when he’s sitting four feet away. I have to ask Jillian to repeat herself all the time. If I’m watching TV, I can’t multi-task like I usually do because I miss all the words instead of just some of them. Closed-captioning only helps when you’re looking at it, after all. The radio in my car is turned up VERY LOUD, and I’m afraid I’ll blow the shitty, 10-year-old speakers in an effort to just hear music at a “normal” volume.
Right now, there is no such thing as background noise. For people who deal with a lot of sounds every day, not having background noise sounds like a great thing, right? It’s not. It’s unnatural and oppressive. All my other senses are on high alert to compensate for this missing one. Not having background noise, which our brains use as a way to orient ourselves in the world, is stressful. I have to be hyper-aware of my surroundings and THAT SHIT IS EXHAUSTING.
Not being able to hear is exhausting all the time. From explaining it to people I’ve just met, to having all my other senses going to 11, to dealing with the incredibly insensitive people trying to be funny… it’s tiring. And hard. And I hate it.
But let’s talk a minute about the “funny” ones, shall we? The most common reaction I get when I explain to people that I cannot hear well and would like for them to speak up is “What?”
“Aw, c’mon, I was making a joke.”
Really? If I told you I were epileptic, would you fall on the floor and flail around to be funny? No? Then why is it okay to say “…WHAT?” when I tell you I’m hearing-impaired? How is that okay? How?
And… it happens A LOT. A very lot. A lot a lot. It baffles me, every time. It’s exhausting and one of the main reasons why there are some people out there… well, I just don’t bother.
I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. It would have been better if I’d been born with this impairment, because then it would have been my version of normal. But I know what I’m missing out on and that’s a very real source of anger and sadness for me. The fancy new hearing aids I got last year help quite a bit, but a week without them is going to be hard.