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American Annals of the Deaf

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Day by Day: The Chronicles of a Hard of Hearing Reporter

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Imagine this—it is a warm, spring day. You are strolling along and a bright, red cardinal flies above and perches on a branch above your head. You stop, smile, and see the bird warbling a song, but, all of a sudden, you realize you can’t hear it. You move closer, still no sound. The beauty does not cease because you cannot hear the song, it has just changed. Now your eyes are counting the beauty not your ears. How I love a spring day with its soft breezes, sweet fragrances of early flowers and trees blooming, and children racing down the street on their bikes. I see the kites flying high in the schoolyard behind our house and can hear laughter in my imagination. If you really look at the curves of the trees and touch the ragged bark, see the vivid and subtle colors of the sky and flowers, the branches swaying in the breeze, and feel the whoosh as a child rides her bike past you, beauty is surrounding you. Scents, sights, and touch bring the sounds alive in a new way.

Your grandchild hugs you and whispers in your ear. You don’t know what she whispered but the softness of the hug lingers on your neck, and you whisper back tender words of love. Your love for that child has not diminished because you could not hear her words. This is what I call a shifting of gears or focus.

How could a person among 28 million feel alone? Easy. I did. Most do. You cannot see hearing loss. You can hide it, you can bluff your way through life, you can deny it but, most importantly, you can isolate yourself—drop out of life, find yourself alone, lost, and confused. You can think that there are no answers or solutions. But you would be wrong. I was wrong. Personally, I got fed up with loneliness and isolation. I wanted to communicate with my friends and family but did not know how to start that journey of discovery. I didn’t know where to buy the ticket or how much it would cost. I was afraid. Many are. I understand and so do many others.

If you have read this far, you may be saying, “Who are these people who understand? How could anyone understand how I feel? How could anyone know how it feels to lose friends who don’t want to try to communicate; how it feels to not have the money to buy hearing aids or an amplified phone? How could anyone know how it feels to sit alone night after night, frightened and frustrated, trying to think of a solution all by myself or how it feels to be left out of conversations or meetings because it seems that everyone is mumbling?”

The answer is simple, but the solutions are up to you. The people at Hearing Loss Association of America (formerly SHHH—Self Help for Hard of Hearing People) understand and care. They understand, and most have experienced what you are feeling at this moment. None of them want you to stay alone. They want to help you find the solutions to improve your life, to step forward, to refocus, and to dwell on what you can do.

Many of these same people are still searching for solutions and acceptance. You are not alone. But it is up to you to take the first step, leave your room, and “buy a ticket.” Only then can you begin again to grow, learn, and accept. Self-help does not have to mean “poor me.” You can choose to have it mean that there is hope, I can learn, and I can move on.

Not hearing conversations and some sounds can cause one to feel lonely in a crowd. My guess is most people in that crowd also feel alone. We each have our reasons. The idea of feeling excluded from the “norm” puts everyone in the same boat. How can we define normal? Is it even possible? Even a normal heartbeat can equal so many things—sounds, rhythm, and rate. A normal personality? Not possible to define.

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