When You Know You’ve Made It

Yesterday I was with a friend I met a couple of months ago. He wears hearing aids on both ears (lucky dog). At one point in the day gave me an exuberant hug and said something to me. On my deaf side. Automatically, I said, “I can’t hear you.” Mind you, I knew he said something, I just had no idea what it was. Literally. No. Freaking. Idea. Just throw out four or five random words – “Sassafras ingenious aardvark coffee chemicals” – coulda been it. (shrugs)

So the guy with the two hearing aids pulled away, looked me in the eye and said, “I’ve never been around anyone like you before.” (subtext – You really can’t hear, can you? Answer: Nope, this is as good as it gets, ever. Tomorrow it may be worse.)

Yup, I think I’ve slipped the line from HoH to the near-deaf. Technically, I have a moderate to severe loss in my hearing ear, but it is how this manifests in communication that matters most. If the moderate to severe loss isolates me from human communication, then that’s exactly what Hellen Keller meant when she said that blindness isolates people from things, but hearing loss isolates people from other people.

On the way home yesterday afternoon, as well as this morning I chewed on the differences between two HoH people. Certainly not all HoH are created equally.

We talked about working around noise – he takes out his aids and I’m functionally deaf – period. In loud echoing areas he needs hearing aids and I’m functionally deaf – 90% of the time. I have a hard time with phones, he’s fine with ’em. I hear things wrong easily, especially if the person is not looking right at me when speaking – he does well. I am almost totally uninterested in TV and movies because I don’t understand them well without CCs.  Even with loud volume there is often music or laugh tracks to cover speech. He likes TV and movies because he grew up understanding them. Like most folks, he came to hearing loss later in life. That helps with understanding the hearing world. Yeah, I grew up in a hearing world, but that doesn’t mean I was actually a part of it.

Now, it may be the bilateral hearing thing. His hearing is limited on both sides, but he HAS both sides and I don’t. It may be that I’ve just crossed the line into the “Twilight Zone” where I’m still hearing  stuff, at least, but I’m not understanding what I hear.

This explains why I like ASL so much. I’m often bummed by the fact most people don’t want to learn it, even when it would mean they could communicate more effectively with me. I asked my kid what she’d do when I lost all my hearing and she said, “Text.”  Well, okay, but ASL is so much more meaningful.  Still, text is better than nothing.


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