Just in case you don’t know, today is World Hearing Day. A day where we celebrate one of our senses, and spread awareness about the loss of the same sense. We celebrate our hearing sense simply because it can be lost. Let’s be honest, would we have celebrated it otherwise? Naturally, normal hearing persons don’t pay much attention to their ability to hear, until it is disturbed of course.
I’m sure every person affected by hearing loss would advise normal hearing persons to not take their hearing for granted. They’ll add the famous quote “you don’t know what you have until you lose it”. The quote may be overused more than the word “vibes” in our aunties’ Facebook statuses, but that doesn’t make it any less true. No one plans to be deaf but all of us can become deaf. For many people, like me, it just happens despite any effort to prevent it. Others could have prevented it if they protected their hearing and realised what exactly they are taking for granted. Let me see if I can help you with the “taking for granted” part …
Being a Cochlea implantee means I can hear partially with my hearing aid on, and nothing at all with it off. I experience two levels of hearing daily, basically. While I am grateful to have “regained” some form of hearing, my experiences with others have shown me how little I still hear, how much I’m missing out on and how hearing loss affects your life as a whole.
I’m an introvert but not by choice. I rarely initiate and participate in conversation because 90% of the time the setting won’t allow me to hear what is being said. There are certain environments and circumstances where I can hear fine and can really engage in conversation but it feels near impossible to recreate these environments and circumstances wherever I go. It is for this very reason I often shy away from going out and being around people. When I do go out I am amazed at how everyone around me can converse so effortlessly around a table when I have great difficulty hearing the person right next to me. And I’m not even talking about a busy place with traffic noises outside.
While I may come across as anti-social, I have a strong urge to participate. By now I have mastered the art of pretending-to-hear-what-was-said at social and informal encounters. Don’t judge me now, because I know at some point in your life you have done it too. You know those moments where you have no idea what someone just said to you but you laugh and nod, hoping they didn’t actually ask a question? I know all of this might sound inconsequential but let me tell you what I’ve learnt. I’ve noticed, later than I should have, that a lot of common knowledge is transferred through casual conversations. Till this day I still feel dim-witted because I’m 25 and still have to ask “What is this?”, “What is that used for?” and “How do you do this?” for the simplest things. Just try to think how many of the tips, life hacks, etc. you know and utilize after hearing it from Jan or Piet. I’ve also noticed how socially-awkward I am sometimes. I don’t know how to carry conversations because I did not have enough practise. After the encounter I’d loathe myself and think of all the things I could have said.
Although I hide it well, I am a really anxious person and the smallest things makes my heart pound. I keep telling myself that it’s silly but my body doesn’t listen. I don’t hear soft sounds so most things I hear sounds “sudden”, like a knock on the door or the telephone ringing. You’d think I’m used to those sounds after all these years but it’s a mini fright every time. It gets worse at night because I can’t really classify sounds, so my mind runs away with me. This is why I take my hearing aid off at night, ‘cause whatever happens must maar happen (LOL). I guess it’s no surprise then that I’m on chronic medication for abnormally high blood pressure and told by specialists I have an enlarged heart. By the way, this year was the first time I had a formal telephonic conversation. It was the funniest experience to have my family have practise runs with me, especially my dad.
Many who read this and knows me personally might say “This is just how Laszlo is”, but I often ask myself “Is this how my hearing loss made me?” I envy how others are able to enjoy these “little” privileges which they don’t pay much attention to because it’s like second nature to them. There are many other things I could have included in this post but I wanted to show you why your hearing is worth being protected. Your hearing allows you to enjoy the little things that has a profound effect on who you are and how you live. You can also help those with hearing loss enjoy these little privileges by being patient with them and converse with them in a setting that allows them to follow the conversation and feel included. Ask them how you can make the experience easier for them but don’t make a big deal about it. We often keep quiet because we don’t want to be a “nuisance” and feel pitied. See what I did there? I gave you reasons why you should celebrate your hearing and spread some awareness at the same time ☺