The cacophony of urban life has steadily diminished over the last six and a half decades. My hearing loss, severe and progressive, has been a series of subtractions. Crickets, songbirds, and kitchen timers simply ceased. I was an adequate lip reader and adept at context. My work environment consisted of a rotating band of teenagers who spoke mostly to each other. Frankly, I suspect that much of what those teens might have said to me was best unheard.
I coped. . .
. . . Until I was walloped by pneumonia AND the seasonal flu in the winter of 2018-19. A course of antibiotics later, and I could no longer cope with my hearing loss. Suddenly I was motivated to do the sensory heavy lifting that is required to learn to tolerate hearing aids. Advances in technology have rendered the devices discreet, at least. So, in April of 2019, I purchased a custom-made pair of rechargeable Phonak hearing aids. Bluetooth allows me to route my cellphone and favorite classical music through them, and they automatically adjust to seven different sound environments.
The first sounds I heard – brushing my own teeth, the tea kettle whistling, footsteps down the hall, the cat meowing – were stunning. It wasn’t a matter of volume so much as sounds I had not heard in years. (Honestly, I had been watching the cat meow for months and figured he was a rare mime cat.) The regular sounds of life – jangling keys, tires on gravel, a zipper tumbling in the dryer – were quite annoying. The hallway din of several hundred teenagers was an agonizing riot. I had to temporarily stop wearing my favorite corduroy slacks due to the racket they made as I paced the classroom.
Those first few weeks using the aids were maddening: Our world is a noisy place. It took me weeks and months to accept the harsh and mechanical soundtrack of the world we live in. Every afternoon, I would come home to my cottage after work and take. the. hearing. aids. out. Enveloped in wonderful, soft soundlessness, like a heavy snowfall on a holiday, I brewed myself a pot of tea. Such luxury to be able to choose the cottony embrace of silence while sipping cup after cup of affirming tea.
Not actually a rare mime cat
Almost 18 months later, I am so accustomed to the aids that I never leave home without them. I wear them all day, every day. But each evening, I pull them out, brew a pot of tea, and revel in the cushion of quiet.
Image provided and copyright held by author