Friday, May 28, 2010
Speak Up, Will Ya, My Ear's in the Shop!
Imagine, if you will that one day you're just cruising along in life, doing the best you can, and your left ear just stops working. You give it a couple of good whacks, but it just up and quits on ya. Frustration, terror, anger, sadness, all these emotions tidal wave you until you wish you'd just drown already. How will you get thru the work day, when that ear just happens to be the one closest to the dentist you're assisting? Do you bother to explain to patients why you sound like a doofus saying huh? what? excuse me? after nearly everything they say? And what do you do when you get a mumbler--a hearing impaired's worse nightmare? Not to mention the soft spoken--fuggedaboutit!!
This is one of my worst nightmares, a dilemma I've become all too familiar with. So let's continue with my situation--now the average person can't take their ear to the shop, but since becoming depended on acrylic masses of circuitry and batteries, I can. And I have. Quite often. In fact, this latest adventure marks the third time I've had to drop my ear off for repairs, the second time for the left, so I can confidently deduce that the right one will blow in the near future. I will have owned these ears a year come August 14, and they've been repaired more times than my tv, stove, dishwasher, microwave, car, and computer combined. So much for modern technology. So the ordeal that began one fateful day in February of 2009 when my old, out-of-date "cheap" ears (they were $950 each, the low end of the digital ears, lasting six years with NO repair time even after I accidentally dropped one in the toilet trying to put it in way too early in the morning!) decided they had heard their last word, succumbed to the ravages of sound technology. Best advice--never trust just anyone with your ears, because the hearing don't value sound like someone who can't hear. They take it for granted, confident that when they get up and go to work their ears will hear everything they need to hear. Those of us who depend on machinery and the expertise of others just to be able to hear the blessings of a loved one, or even the curses of an enemy, always carry a bit of nervous hesitation. When the low battery signal beeps, is that the aid's dying breath? Will changing the battery, changing the filter, be enough to resuscitate them? Tune in next week for the exciting conclusion of When the Hearing Aid Dies...
But seriously folks, here's an experiment for you, something that can teach you to value the gift of sound. One day, when you wake up, put an ear plug in one of your ears, then go thru the next three or four days with only one ear. People think I have super hearing because I have something to amplify sound, but it only gives me regular ears, and when one is in the shop, it messes everything up. I still don't hear everything, but I can hear what matters. So after you go thru a few days in my world, in my ears, take the ear plug out and be thankful for the amazing things you hear.
My frustration comes from people who act like it's no big deal for me to struggle thru my day with only one ear. "Well, it'll take a week to repair", "You'll have to pay to have it shipped overnight even though it's still in warranty", these out of the mouth of the hearing, blasphemers in my hearing impaired kingdom, in which I am the queen. "Off with their heads" I shout, though no one hears me because their ears are damaged and have been sent for repairs. Thank God we don't need our ears to think or read. I wish I could make the hearing understand what it is like for us, the impaired, but until someone takes away their ears, they will never know my world. Keep in mind I am by no means rich. I don't have a money tree, and my bank account is the same number as my I.Q. more often than not. So to think of the money I shelled out for these wonderful advancements in modern technology for the hearing impaired, enough money to buy one or possibly two of my children a decent used car, I cringe every time one of them dies. If they were a car, they would have been classified a lemon by now, and I would either have gotten a replacement or my money back to get a replacement. But basically the office tells me I'm S.O.L, 'cause my 30 day trial period is up. So all because some whacked out "professional" audiologist dicked me over, I have to pay for these and wonder every day if it will work when I turn it on, and live in fear that one day both will stop on the same day. (and I take way better care of these than i did the "cheap" ones that lasted six years with no repairs) Or I can plunge even deeper in debt, go to my new ENT and have new ones made. I should have taken better care of the money tree, and probably shoulda planted those magic beans instead of serving them with tacos.
I don't have the luxury of putting my life on hold when this happens, which seems to be frequently. I can't just say "Sorry boss, no can hear" and take a week off until they get around to fixing my ear. No, I have to struggle thru my days, knowing that people will think I'm stupid because I can't hear, they will label me defective, they will talk about me behind my back or worse yet to my face, and I will never know. This is my cross to bear, and I've been dragging it around since my teens, and I will continue to do so for the rest of my life, living in fear that one day even machines won't help me and I will be left alone in silence, watching life rush by without me.
I am a firm believer that what does not kill us makes us stronger, and the fact that I've been marching along for 43 years is my testimony that I have endured many hardships, and God willing I will survive many many more. I am learning to accept my impairment, my defect, my imperfection. I can joke about it now instead of ignoring it, hiding from it, keeping it a secret, or worse being embarrassed by it. I can stand up and say "My name is Joyce, and I am hearing aid dependent" with pride. I saw a news story about a man, Donnie Fritts, who had to have a portion of his face removed due to a tumor or he would die, and he overcame being afraid to go outside and letting the world see him how he is. He is alive, and his wife Sharon is still madly in love with him, because even though part of him is gone, he's still the same person he has always been. He will be a source of inspiration to me as I suffer set backs, because no matter how badly I think I have it, I know this cross I carry is nothing compared to some. I am lucky.
I will pick up my ear today, and hopefully it will work and I will be temporarily restored until the next time. My ears are a small part of me as a whole, and those who really matter to me know that. Being impaired has taught me compassion, patience, understanding, it has shown me that I need to reach out to those who feel they are defective and let them know how wonderful they are. I hate to break it to ya, but everyone is flawed in some way, even those who preach perfection. We all have something wrong with us, but who cares? How boring would life be if we were all these immaculate automatons marching thru life in the same shoes? How would we learn humility, empathy, or sympathy? I will accept you, flawed and vulnerable, as I hope you will do me. (sorry, I had a "that's what she said" moment over the last part of that sentence. i'm flawed, remember?)
So maybe I have found an objective, a goal, a cause to defend. Maybe I need to fight for other hearing impaired individuals, that we are treated fairly, and work at getting hearing aids covered by insurance, because for a great many of us, they are a necessity. Maybe this experience is prompting me to learn sign language, something I've always wanted to do anyway. And maybe, growing up good friends with a girl whose sister wore hearing aids practically from birth was a sign of things to come. You do what you gotta do to get thru each day, and with any luck you will touch someone else's life along the way and change it. I think the hearer's need an awakening. And I'm gonna make them hear me loud and clear. My ears are defective, my hearing is impaired; I however, am not.