Hearing the world we live in

Sometimes, people will ask you to repeat yourself because they didn’t hear you the first time you spoke. This is perfectly legitimate and happens to everyone occasionally.

Other times, you are convinced the people you spoke to heard you, but simply chose to ignore you. This happens often when you are a parent to small(ish) children, or perhaps teenagers (or face it, any kid currently living with you). There is a term for this behaviour: selective hearing. Granted, they may truly not hear you because they have ear buds in their ears listening to music, or are so tuned-in to their screens they are incapable of breaking their concentration to ‘hear’ your voice. Either way, you find yourself repeating the same words.

Parental repetition is exhausting.

Sometimes however, repetition is necessary when speaking to a person who is hard of hearing, such as an elderly person. Age often affects hearing and many older people aren’t aware that their hearing has changed until a ‘normal’ hearing person enters their domain and remarks how loud the tv volume is set at.

Certain people in noisy jobs may experience similar hearing loss as senior citizens, like musicians, or people working in factories with loud machinery. Pilots, airline or airport workers and military personnel often are also exposed to many loud noises continuously and often their hearing is affected by this as well over time.

Finally there are people like me who have lost at least some hearing because of an illness. Illness can affect hearing as well as other senses, and hearing loss for these people is often similar to those of seniors, where a type of loss can increase over time. Childhood Meningitis is to blame for my loss, and over time, namely during hormonally charged occasions (adolescence, mid-life), the hearing loss caused me more than just a little bit of grief.

Being a parent to school aged kids who sometimes are privy to selective hearing, I often feel charged with all kinds of emotion when one of us is experiencing the direct effects of lack of hearing (selective or otherwise). I understand hearing loss better than most normal-hearing people, so if my little people choose selective hearing as an option to avoid some task, I get rather ticked off. Parental repetition of simple commands that by this time, ages 10 and 7, really shouldn’t be spoken at all, makes me lose my marbles. They shouldn’t have issues with activities that should be automatic by now. Do they really need constant, repetitive reminding to brush teeth or load/unload the dishwasher?

The answer is yes. They are kids. SIGH.

But I digress.

Simple things such as speaking to a person with hearing loss by facing them requires practice for all involved, the speaker and the listener. Or to continue to face the person with the hearing loss, not suddenly turn their face. I realize people can be animated when speaking and move their head or body around while in conversation, which is where the repetition comes in again. It’s tiring to ask someone to face you several times, but it’s just as tiring to hear it if you’re the speaker.

I get that.

Then there’s passive hearing, which is conversation you hear but are not actively paying attention to. Passive hearing is the type of hearing that you do subconsciously, like when you’re typing into your blog and the kids are talking nearby. If you have normal hearing, chances are you can hear what they say clear enough but since you are concentrating on something else, you are not really aware of their words. If a kid however suddenly speaks a word that has you on alert (they’re not done their chores and are taking about turning on Minecraft) you will find yourself breaking your own attention to address and correct them. “No Minecraft until the dishes are put away, and you’ve brushed your teeth”, you say before returning to your blog post.

If however you are incapable of passive hearing due to hearing loss, you will likely not notice their conversation until they are already logged into their computer. The ensuing reactions from the entire chain of events are often more exasperating for all parties involved simply because they have already bypassed the supposed corrective action and are already in Minecraft mode (for example). Correcting them while they’re still in front of their dirty dishes usually results at the very least in an eye-roll or perhaps a complaint, but making them go BACK to the dishes away from their enticing electronic toy has much louder consequences for all involved.

This exasperates me.

Other things that exasperate me with my disABILITY are numerous and I’m not here to dwell on them in this post. Instead, I will copy Natasha and list things I actually don’t mind about my hearing loss:

Silence.

Since I feel I birthed the noisiest children in the world, silence is like gold ’round here. I love the silence I ‘hear’ when no one is home and I’m all alone.

Isolation.

This one is a tough one because too much isolation isn’t good for anyone. But after a particularly busy week or month or event (which we had way too many of in the past six months including a major house renovation) I particularly enjoy a certain amount of isolation. The family is planning a camping trip and I’m actually on the fence, thinking I may just stay home, get things done (or not), and enjoy some isolation before they all come back.

Attention.

When I engage in conversation with people I have to pay attention to their face, watch their mouth move. Often I only catch half of what’s being said because I hear things distorted. But forcing myself to pay extra attention is a way of practicing mindfulness, something everyone is talking about these days. Being mindful of who is speaking and what is being said, paying attention, is good for me (but also exhausting). You would not believe how tired I am after spending an entire day in a social atmosphere (kids’ sports tournaments come to mind) simply from having to be so ‘on’ with my attention on every single thing everyone is constantly saying.

Sleep.

Because of the above mentioned exhaustion I find myself getting more sleep than I ever had before. It’s like my brain shuts off at around 8 pm and even if I’m not tired enough to go to sleep, it seems like my brain is saying “we’re done here”. I don’t want to play games, have conversations or listen to chatter anymore, thank you, I just want my book or a good show and go to sleep. And sleep, as we all know, is regenerative. Without enough sleep (and silence associated with sleep) I am useless around people.

Body Language

I have become rather observant of other people’s body language. Their physical actions, conscious and subconscious, help me ‘hear’ what they’re saying, and being in tune with their behaviour gives me assistance in following a conversation. The only bad thing is that I often pick up too much body language and find that it overwhelms. Another example that leads to exhaustion, but not one I could purposely choose to overlook. Reading body language is more positive than not, and gives me insights to help me stay with current events.

This is a personal list unique to my circumstances, but it would not surprise me if aspects of this list would affect other people, even normal-hearing people, in a similar way. There’s a common thread that unites parents and all the above mentioned types of hearing (or not) is part of that. The world we live in is a noisy one; we must choose to hear the noises we enjoy and try to tune out the ones we don’t. For me, hearing a bird tweet, a dog bark, or a guinea pig squeal for a treat is a special sound I hope to continue to hear for a long time to come, as are the happy noises of children playing. Sports related noises when they’re at baseball, that ding when the ball is hit by the bat, I love that sound. Or the sound of my kids slicing by on ice at the rink in their hockey skates, not much not to like about that sound. (I am Canadian, after all, and we’re a hockey family.) Can’t imagine a world without those sounds in it.

Now, if someone could tell me how to tune out the whining and high-pitched screechy noises certain people around me continue to emit from their facial orifices, please enlighten me. I’d appreciate any tips.

 

 

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One thought on “Hearing the world we live in

  1. ACE Audiology and Hearing

    Agreed with your share!!

    Like

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