Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 27, 2004


Partial loss of hearing is a blessing in disguise


      Two years ago, I realized one day that I had suffered a partial loss of hearing. The change was abrupt and obvious. I heard well one day but could not hear well the next day.

          A specialist examined me and informed me that my hearing loss had occurred gradually over many years, not suddenly. He was wrong. I know the loss was sudden. I did not argue with him. I did not want to hurt his feelings. He gets paid big money to think he knows what he is talking about, so why should I deflate his ego. Not that it really mattered anyway.

          He told me my hearing was as poor in one ear as in the other. Again, he was wrong. I can hear much better in my left ear. Why else do I keep turning my left ear toward everyone who speaks to me? The loss in my right ear is more severe. I kept this to myself also. I did not want the doctor to lose his self-confidence. After all, he needs to believe he can help his patients.

          Hearing aids, the good doctor said, could help me recover some but not all of my hearing loss. He told me how much the aids cost. I fainted. I had wanted to buy a new truck. I settled for the hearing aids and kept my old truck.

          Now I have two expensive hearing aids. They do help me to hear much better. However, when I wear them, I feel as though I am inside a barrel. When I speak, I have no awareness of how loudly I am speaking. The doctor said that in time this problem would disappear.

          He may be right, but so far I have not been willing to find out. Wearing the aids was so frustrating that I parked them. For a while I plan to relax and continue being hard of hearing. This, of course, will require greater patience from my wife, my family, and my friends. I regret the inconvenience this will cause them, but I hope they will understand.

          In the meantime, I am trying to put a happy face on my problem. After all, being hard of hearing has some advantages. I console myself with the reminder that I am not completely deaf. I am thankful for the hearing I do have.

          I can no longer hear the doorbell unless I am near it when it rings. I simply go to the door after my wife yells, “Can’t you hear the doorbell?” The advantage is that by the time I get to the door, half the folks who were knocking have already left. That saves me some time and energy. If it is important, they will come back later or call.

          That brings me to the telephone. I cannot hear it ringing either unless I am close by. That is no problem. I simply answer it after my wife yells, “Can’t you hear the phone ringing?” Actually, even then I don’t always answer it. We have that “caller ID” feature, so I only answer the phone when it is someone with whom I want to talk. That also saves some time and energy.

          BellSouth tried to sell me the “call waiting” service. You must be kidding, I said. I can talk to only one person at a time, so why on earth would I want to get two people on the line at once. I offered to pay BellSouth to keep “call waiting” off my phone.

          I hate that my hearing loss frustrates my wife. She is so tired of repeating comments to me. Every time she speaks to me, I reply, “What?”

Then she frowns and repeats what she just said, only louder. To be honest, I often understand her the first time. It just gives me more time to think of an answer if I let her repeat the question. Please do not let her know this. It would ruin the rhythm we have going now.

          Women with soft, sweet voices are the most difficult for me to hear. Usually I just smile and nod my approval, hoping and praying that they are just talking and not expecting an intelligent response. This does not trouble me because a lot of stuff people are saying is not worth hearing anyway.  What many people want is just an ear to speak into, not a conversation.

          My hearing loss comes in handy also when the neighbors’ dogs are barking. I can hardly hear them now. And when my older friends complain about how loud the music is at church, I just smile because it sounds about right to me.

          I do miss hearing the birds sing. They seem silent now. However, the clock someone gave us meets that need. This clock has different birds that sing on the hour, so I can sit by the clock and hear the birds sing whenever I wish. I like the Northern Oriole best. She always sings at six o’clock.

          Please do not feel sorry for me. Just tolerate my poor hearing for a while longer. One day soon, I will insert those precious hearing aids into my ears and learn to endure the frustration of living in a barrel. Until then, please speak up. What did you say? Would you say that again please? And do stop all that frowning when you are talking to me. Ok? Ok. + + + +