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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