Beautiful Noise

beautiful noise

Last fall I went for a second hearing test to confirm what I already knew: I couldn’t hear well.

At the appointment I was fitted with a trial pair of hearing aides.

“Is this what everyone hears?” I asked – incredulous.

“Actually – it’s less. If I programmed them at full range initially, it would be too much,” said the audiologist. “We’ll work up to normal hearing capacity gradually.”

My eyes welled with tears.

“I’ve been missing a lot,” I murmured.

“Yes, you have.”

Tests confirmed that I had moderate hearing loss in the mid to low ranges and severe hearing loss in the high ranges. I was told that if there was no history of trauma, the decline was most likely genetic in origin. An MRI confirmed that assumption.

I wore my hearing aids home, overwhelmed by the barrage of noise in a car which had previously felt like a well-insulated tank. Now it seemed nothing but a rattly old jalopy buffeted by noisy winds and threateningly tinny in tone. Not nearly the sturdy old cruiser I had experienced it to be. I tried not to panic, and took calm cues from my husband’s normal demeanor in the driver’s seat.

At home, our dog Oliver clamored across the kitchen floor to greet us. “His nails!” I shouted. “They make noise!”

“You never heard that before?” asked my husband.

“No,” I said. “Everything makes noise. I had no idea.”

“Wow.”

The next few days overwhelmed me with sound.

The torrent of water from the tap startled me. A rush of noise surging from the kitchen terrified me until I took another calming cue from Ollie who seemed completely nonplussed. I hurried in and yanked open the dishwasher and the din stopped. It was just the appliance and not an airplane about to crash-land on our house. The cascading clamor coming from the living room was not the dog falling down the stairs, but just the sound of him trotting down the steps, as usual.

I learned that hearing loss isolated me more than I had known. I initiate and join conversations now, knowing that I will be able to respond with more than a dubious nod of the head. My improved acuity reminds me daily that everyone struggles with hidden challenges that no one can see.

When it is time to take them off, the abrupt hush prompts a momentary flutter of panic as I put them in the little box they came in each night. In the time it takes to do that, I am used to the familiar muffle that was my old baseline. My sister asked me what this was like. I told her that taking off my hearing aides is like turning off the lights for your eyes. My brain seems relaxed in knowing that this is not my straining-to-hear-mode anymore, but a strange new portal to a peace and quiet place.

I sleep better than ever now, too.

12 thoughts on “Beautiful Noise

  1. Wow, Deb, you described your experience so well! I remember getting glasses for the first time and actually seeing leaves on trees, but that new visual acuity only enhanced my experience of the world. I can see that enhancing your hearing was a startling and unsettling experience. When my son got tubes in his ears he refused to go to loud places. He still prefers quiet places and seems to retreat when surrounded by too much noise. Thank you for inviting me into the world from your perspective, it is an important one. And an important lesson to remember, like you said, “everyone struggles with hidden challenges that no one can see.” As teachers we need to constantly be on the alert for those challenges in our students so we can support them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Suzanne. Like you said, it’s really important – especially as a teacher – to recognize daily that not everyone is experiencing the world the way I am, especially for those with recognized challenges. A double helping of obstacles on their plate, for sure.

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    1. I am happy for her! I am grateful for their assistance every day. I was amazed to discover how much of my energy went to just trying to hear, and I hope that your wife finds a new sense of relaxation that I felt as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just sliced something along these lines! My last job was really, really loud at times resulting in some hearing loss. This slice is what I needed to nudge me to getting my ears checked out. I’m sure I have lost out one some great conversations over the years, no more!

    I really liked you talking about your dog and the dishwasher! So many little things that are now discoverable, that is awesome news!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I truly didn’t realize what i was missing, nor did I realize how much energy I was expending in intense concentration on hearing. It is very freeing to be this relaxed.

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    2. Thank you. I had no idea that I was missing so much and that everything makes noise. Of course, I would know that if I thought about it, but I guess I never had before. To receive sound from something that I never thought of as making a noise was revelatory.

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  3. This description is so inspiring. The way you tell of your experience is so detailed. It seems you are finding your footing with your new ability and I’m so glad your nights are soundly sleeping. Best to you.

    Liked by 1 person

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