We all express our loving feelings to our spouses and significant others on Valentine’s Day. But for me the day as a broader meaning, one where I like to remember my dear friends and all the wonderful people who help me hear. Shakespeare said that friends are those who know you as you are. No truer words when it comes to hearing loss. My life is sprinkled with kind souls who accept me as is, a woman with a profound loss. These wonderful people treat me with dignity and respect. They help me by repeating what they said without complaining. Without fanfare, they make others around me aware of my problem. When in doubt, they ask how they can help me hear. I don’t mind sharing my list of hearing needs with these thoughtful souls.
Anyone who is hard of hearing knows that being in a room or place with little or no background noise improves word comprehension. A party or restaurant can become a hearing nightmare when environmental sounds collide with conversation. Those of us with a severe or profound hearing loss might miss as much as ninety percent of what is being said. In a noisy environment, I ask the person who is talking to face me. At a party I take the arm of the man or woman conversing with me and suggest that we move to a quieter spot, away from music and the chorus of voices. When invited to a restaurant, I mention that sitting in a booth or a corner table up against a wall is better than sitting at a table in the middle of a room.
I know women with soft as silk voices. I see their lips move, but their words never reach my ailing ears. I lean forward, and ask them to repeat or to speak louder. I love those who remember to look at me and speak up in my presence. There are folks who talk faster than the speed of sound. Fast-paced speech is a hearing demon in any situation. I can’t blame someone for getting excited as the plot of their stories unfold. Yet in the midst of their tales, I want to put up my hand, traffic-cop style, and say slow down. I’m hooked while listening to a friend’s travel adventures through the streets of Verona, Italy. I’m perched on the edge of my seat while listening to you talk about how you caught on tape a bob cat kitten romping around your backyard. When I can hear you, I can be as proud as you are of your grandson’s electrical engineering team, inventing a surgical instrument that will allow a surgeon to operate on the tiniest of blood vessels. On Valentine’s Day, I won’t forget my husband. He’s stood by me for over twenty years as my hearing advocate. He champions my decisions to try new technology. He comforts me when I’m depressed because I can’t hear. Hugs to my audiologist who is honest with me about the progression of my hearing loss. He never tries to sell me what I don’t need. He quickly fixes my aids and peripherals when they fail. To all the hearing loves in my life, I thank you for realizing that my meanderings through the hearing world mean that I sometimes need a little help.