I don’t know how many of you watched the Biggest Loser this past season, but one of the contestants, Abby, lives my worst nightmare. She lost her husband and kids all within minutes after they were broadsided in a car accident. I can’t think of anything worse. I’m sure every woman in the world feels the same. It would be bad enough to lose your husband or one child, but to lose them all in a moment. . . My GOD!
So what’s this got to do with hearing loss? Nothing. Except that those of us who lose our hearing are often told, “There are worse things,” when we open up about our feelings. And it’s true. There ARE worse things. We all know it. I could name at least ten people who have suffered more than me. Truth be told, if I were to rate my life, good fortune would far outweigh the hearing loss. I have even been able to put a happy spin on going deaf from time to time.
For example, people often remind me how lucky I am to be able to sleep soundly. Only it’s not quite true. I hear footsteps in the night because of my good low tones. Since low tones are all I hear, the sound of people walking across wood floors seems over amplified. There are many sounds I have wished I could hear at night—a soft rain, fire alarm, mosquito buzzing around my face. It’s a fact that I sleep through my neighbor’s barking dog though. For that I’m grateful.
And yes—I can see the humor in hearing loss. Almost all my hard of hearing and deaf friends have replied back to burps and farts, thinking someone actually SAID something meaningful to them. Most of us have funny stories about misunderstandings caused by mis-hearing. Looking back I can laugh about the time I high-fived a friend when she said she was getting a divorce. I thought she said she was getting a new horse. Hearing loss can be uproariously funny.
But it’s also serious. I realize my hearing loss isn’t on the same scale as losing a child, and there are advantages to being able to sleep through a barking dog. But it’s still a loss. I can’t imagine reminding a friend to count her blessings after she lost her job. Would I tell her she’s lucky she can talk on a phone because it’s really hard to get a job when you can’t? Would I tell a friend she’s lucky she doesn’t have to spend money at a beauty salon after she lost her hair from chemo treatment? Would I joke to a blind person that I’m going blind too, then repeat a funny story about not being able to read a menu in a restaurant and how I need reading glasses? What?! You don’t think that’s funny?! Well that’s part of your problem. You just need to see the humor in going blind, you see. . .
Most of us with hearing loss live in quiet pain and isolation for years while our hearing dwindles away to nothing. If we are lucky, eventually we find a group of people who have experienced hearing loss. People who understand. They don’t remind you to count your blessings because they know you already do. They don’t tell you how lucky you are that you can’t hear things at night. Most likely they have a heart-wrenching story about not hearing a sick child cry. They don’t make jokes about going deaf.