Thursday, March 25, 2004

A coming to terms

The audiologist - "Amy" - writes a prescription for a hearing aid. It's time. I have begun to worry about my job. Maybe even losing it. They're not threatening but I'm scared. "How much worse will it get?" "We don't know." I am driving my husband crazy. He gets impatient, tries not to. So does everybody. Strangers, people in stores, floor staff, can get very nasty - they assume you're ignoring their practiced greetings and cheerful conversation. You're being bitchy or superior. Some snap at you. Those closest to you get to the end of their patience and just sigh. They're frustrated, you're frustrated and guilty.

The cheaper they are, the uglier they are. I want one that's invisible. I want one that costs $3000. My health insurance will cover $800. It's just as well because the audiologist suggests I get one that is visible. "You're the wrong demographic," she says. "Too young, female. People won't accept you have a hearing loss. There is a certain..." she pauses, "behavior shift when people see the hearing aid." So I will get one that can be seen. I am mortified and ashamed of my vanity. I am grateful that there is such a thing as a hearing aid. I am grateful that the antibiotics that have robbed me of my hearing kept me alive so that I can be vain. I feel guilty for mourning what's happening now. I think constantly of how many things would be worse than this. In the end, though, this particular life is mine.

I am lucky. Lucky to be alive. Lucky to understand what's happening. I saw the Rolling Stones in concert for the first time in July 2003. Me and my best friend (who now lives in Ontario and joined me just for the concert) in a sea of half a million people in Toronto. I drove 800 kilometers alone to go because I knew I might never hear them if I didn't now. I listen to my nieces and nephews on the phone intensely, trying to imprint their tones and timbres and the music of their voices on my brain for future reference. Just in case. I press my ear to my cat's side and try to absorb the sound of their purrs. At a crowded pub table, when everyone else is listening to my husband or my dear friend's amusing story, I'm enveloping myself in the sound of his voice, the throatiness of her laugh, marveling at how wonderful they are.

I'm afraid and embarrassed to be afraid when so many have so much more to worry about.

I can no longer hear my father-in-law. His big, booming voice was hushed to a whisper when he nearly died during open-heart surgery. Now I can't understand anything he says. I liked him and our conversations a great deal. I miss him.

I want things to be the same. I want my hearing back. Thank you, God and brilliant surgeon and patient partner and antibiotics, for saving me. For saving my life.

Next week I get the hearing aid. God helps those who help themselves.

How much worse will it get? We don't know.

(note: this post is dated approximately when it was written. it was published on June 25, 2004)