Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The Epic Otic Odyssey: Two Weeks Later



I hear less now than I did without the aids.

Okay, factually speaking, I am on shaky ground but that is what it feels like. Maybe it’s because every time I have tried to have a private conversation in the last week there has been background noise. Whether it’s the fluorescent lights, the computer or traffic, the result is a consistent hum that blankets all words with a claustrophobic indifference. So, you say, go somewhere quiet. But where? I live and work in the city and cities run on noisy things. We don’t fully realize this because we are accustomed to the noise, its become a part of who we are.

Unlike my father I had no audio trauma. But because I had some tinnitus, a marked difference in hearing between the right and left ear, and was considered “young” for aids, my hearing specialist sent me to an ENT. One MRI later, a bunch of tests and more questions found there was nothing physically wrong with me except my right auditory nerves are smaller, or something like that. I long ago forgot his exact words because they didn’t matter. The bottom line is I hear less than some and while he told me my hearing wouldn’t get better, he assured me it probably wouldn’t get much worse either. 

It makes me wonder though, am I really hard of hearing or do I just not want to hear this blasphemous cacophony that defines what it means to be a modern day human? Have my ears done the ultimate rebellion and just said, no?  

I don’t quite remember when my hearing started to fail. A friend suggested, perhaps a decade ago, that I get tested but it wasn’t till I was working retail about five years back that I really began to notice a deficit. It became a joke with my colleagues. I laughed with the others but I also knew there was no cure, only management—a management that was far beyond my financial abilities. Then I got a new job with benefits. The management option—hearing aids—became a possibility and this is where I find myself today.

This morning, as I do several times a week, I went for a hike. I go early to avoid human contact. It’s a precious time for me. What I love most is the silence that only a forest can offer. Sure there are birds and squirrels but their calls to each other are more like lyrics to an otherwise quiet song. And different forests offer different silences. 

Back in 2013 I wrote a blog about sound. Part way through I wrote:

The rain forest … [has] a full, almost pregnant silence that wraps around me like a warm shawl. There is safety in this quiet vibration. This forests speaks of fertility, and the magic thereof, and of the interconnective web that exists despite my solitary nature. 

The pine forest … [has] a sharpness to her silence, a staccato resonance that perhaps reflects the drier climes or relatively sparse undergrowth. I am not overly familiar with her environs but I know the sound when I arrive. It has a certain clarity of being, a depth of understanding, that only my heart can discern. My brain … is left aside in this communication.

The third ecosystem is that of the ancient Yellow Cedar. High above Buntzen Lake is a grove of 1000 year old trees with cat tail moss, ag├ęd as the rocks below, suspended from their branches. I love visiting this forest when the clouds are low and the humidity high; when the flow of moisture-laden life immerses with that of my own. The land here is filled with spirits so old, so inviolate, that communication is almost inconceivable. She demands stillness and reverence. There are no contemporary words for the silence of this forest: only an echo of what was; and a subtle reverberation of what may yet be.

The question for me is will I still hear the fullness of silence when I become attuned to the aids? Will I still hear with my heart?


Stay tuned for more of the Epic Otic Odyssey…

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Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Epic Otic Odyssey - Day 3 & 4


Day Three


Its Saturday. My day.
My day to go into the hills, alone.
By that, I mean, without the electronic doo-hickie. I hiss goodbye. 

They say it can take two full months to get used to hearing aids: the brain needs retraining. It needs to relearn what sounds to tune out and what ones to tune in. My specialist says that because I am so young, it wont take long. Consider it a challenge! Think of all the things you'll hear now! Aren’t you excited? I want to metaphorically kick her in the shins like my brother (non-metaphorically) kicked the dentist back when he didn’t know better. Then again, maybe he did. I doubt my “young” age will be taken into to account when they kick me out of the office.

Day Four

I am loathe to admit it but I am getting somewhat used to having a bionic ear. That said, I am still not convinced my life has improved. I played with the volume while shopping in the mall today. Whereas before I just heard the muffled backdrop of canned muzak and miscellaneous conversations of people passing by, now I actually hear words. The question is do I want to hear them? 

My father wore hearing aids. He did so for as back as I can remember. They were compensation for having been a blaster before employers thought to protect their workers. The audiologist said he had profound hearing loss but that doesn’t mean much when you’re a child, even an adult one. Don’t hearing aids fix everything? And then it can get personal as offspring only do so well: he just doesn’t try hard enough. If only he would focus. Or, the bottom of the barrel: he doesn’t care enough.

The thing about hearing aids, specially my father’s which could never truly ameliorate the damage done to his ears, is that they don’t replicate true sound. Moreover, there is always this fine balance between having them on too high or too low. It was common to hear his aids squeal with feedback or to see him confused in a restaurant’s noisy milieu when they were turned up too high. But when adjusted too low he was virtually deaf. There never seemed to be a sweet spot for my father, especially as he aged.

 My hearing is vastly better than his was but still, I have trouble hearing people. As I look for my own sweet spot I find I am entering a steep learning curve that is asking my brain to be a child again: to tune out sounds that are unimportant; to accept that subtle tinny reverberations are normal when listening to music or podcasts; and that its okay for my own voice to sound like I am talking to someone on the phone while they take a bath. In time I may be okay with all this but tonight, I am just thinking about my dad.


Stay tuned for more of the Epic Otic Odyssey…


If you missed the previous days, scroll down and look at the Blog Archives to the right of the page




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