It was about a year ago, that I started to wonder if I had a hearing problem or just a listening problem.
“Why did you put the lunchbox on top of the refrigerator? I told you specifically not to put anything up there” My husband said with frustration.
“I’m sorry I didn’t hear you.” I said.
“Maybe you just weren’t listening. I was in the living room, just 10 feet away.”
“What? What? Why are you screaming?”
“I’ve called your name three times already. Didn’t you hear me??”
“No. No I didn’t hear you.”
“There’s no way you couldn’t hear me. I was yelling from the kitchen. Our house isn’t that big.”
At first I thought my husband just didn’t understand how sound worked. I mean, if the sink is running and the tv is on, isn’t it normal not to hear him ask me something?
Then one night we were at a party–There was lots of background noise with people chatting and eating and laughing around the room. I was in a circle with a few friends all within comfortable distance from one another. One person was talking and the rest in the circle were listening and nodding their heads at moments, laughing at others. I could hear that noise was coming out of her mouth. But I couldn’t piece together the sounds in order to construct the words themselves and place them in order in my head so that I understood the meaning or the message. I just stood there quietly, not participating in the conversation other than standing there.
I felt so alone. Everyone enjoying themselves. And I had no one I could talk to.
Oh my gosh, I realized, I have a hearing problem.
But it’s not really a hearing problem so bad that I need a hearing aid, right? I can hear people just fine.
- When they are face to face with me.
- And they don’t have a really low voice.
- Or mumble.
- Or talk too fast.
- Or are whispering.
- Or are leaving a message on my voicemail.
- Or speaking with background noise around.
Often times, if I’m talking with them on the phone, I don’t hear all their words and so awkwardly respond with, “right.” It seems to satisfy most people.
Why don’t I say, “I’m sorry, I can’t hear you”? I’m afraid to be rude I guess. I think I’ve done it in the past and only made the person frustrated.
“I’m sorry can you say that again?”
“I’m sorry I still didn’t hear you, can you say it one more time?” And then I hear a tone in their voice that suggest irritation and I still can’t figure out what they are saying. So I stop asking.
People can’t quite get that I don’t mean just say it again exactly the way you said it before—I mean to say it more articulately, more slowly, at a higher pitch. Let me see your facial expressions. Let me see your body language. So I can figure it out. Or guess what you are saying. I’ll hear a word hear and a phrase there. So I often make inferences on what is in between. Sometimes I’m right. Sometimes I’m wrong. I can usually tell when I’m wrong when I respond to what I think they said, and they respond with tones of perplexity.
No wonder I text way more often than call people and I rarely answer my phone. Just text, I’ve been saying for so long without really knowing why. No wonder the last couple of months–I’ve been struggling to hear my voice mail. I kept thinking it was my phone. I can’t hear anyone if there’s any background noise. I can hear that someone is talking, but I can’t make out the words.
I don’t want a hearing aid.
I’m angry at myself for going to those loud parties, raves, and concerts when I was younger. But then I wonder if it was all those ear infections I had as a kid. What is the cause?
I’ve been putting off seeing a doctor.
I ‘ve assumed that my husband can just put up with it. I can just stick my head out from the kitchen when I hear his voice but can’t put the words together and say, “What did you say?” Or if I ask him a yes or no questions and he responds with “yeah.”
I said, “yeah.”
“Oh honey, please don’t say, “yeah” when you mean “yes” because I can’t tell the difference between your “yeah’s” and “no’s.” I’m waiting to hear the “s” sound so I know your answer.
But last weekend, I realized–this was going to affect more than just my husband and my social life at parties.
I was writing at the kitchen table during nap time, and my husband was near by on the living room couch. The dishwasher was running and the washing machine in the garage was rumbling too.
“you know the baby is crying, right?”
“no I didn’t hear her.”
“You need to go to the hearing doctor. We don’t need our children to die in the backroom choking on something so you don’t to feel silly wearing a hearing aid.”
Some may say it was harsh. But my husband knows me. If he’s too nice when I’m stubborn, I won’t change. I haven’t. This has been a problem for a while. And there was truth in what he said. Why wasn’t I going to get this solved? It’s because I don’t want a hearing aid. I don’t want that to be part of my description. That wasn’t what I had seen in my plan for my life.
Hearing aids are ugly. They are on deaf people and old people. I am neither, I thought.
“I dated a girl with a hearing aid once,” my husband said last night with a smile after I told him I couldn’t hear a woman in class who was speaking to me during break because there was too much background noise.
I think that is what I needed to hear. I think deep down, I was wondering–Will you still love me with a hearing aid? Will you still think I’m pretty with a hearing aid? I think he was telling me the answer to my unasked question– yes.
So I called the Doctor and had my first appointment on Friday. More on those details in my next blog.