Archive for September, 2010

For someone who starts life in the womb hearing their mother’s voice and emerges into the world of sound the idea of the ear and sound being inseparable and indispensable experiences must be a no-brainer.  One of those ‘duh’ moments where the response is “of course, how could the ability to hear be anything other than a positive, enriching experience.

However for those who were born deaf with some residual hearing the relationship of the ear, sound, and how it is experienced are much different especially when they come into contact with the famous ‘miracle ear’ and its supposedly astounding achievements.  For most of us this ‘ability to hear’ is a jarring introduction to the world of sound and as a result, we cannot fathom how hearing people tolerate a life in constant contact with noise.

This was certainly the case for me at the age of 5 ½ (or thereabouts) when it was discovered I was deaf and shipped off to live at the residential school for the deaf in Kansas.  Within the year I was introduced to the ‘miracle ear’ and it proved to be annoying, loud, distorted, irritating, white noise.  This is what I call my bronco-busting period between the ages of 6-9.  Just as the bronco resists the saddle so did I by resisting the addition of the hearing aid into my world of experience.

For the next three years, I found every opportunity to take it off as soon as adults were out of eyesight, to “lose it” conveniently as I could and to misplace it each night so it was a struggle to find it the following morning.   These are only a few of the efforts I made to cast off the imposition that the hearing aid imposed. In my youthful outlook, there was absolutely no value to the thing whatsoever.  Alas, sometime during my 9th year I was saddle broken and began to leave the thing on during my waking hours.

Now in those days hearing aids were huge things.  Requiring at least the equivalent of what we would identify as 6 AA size batteries but twice as thick.  Now, something that big and heavy does not fit conveniently into a shirt or pant pocket.  As a consequence I was fitted with a harness, just like the broken in bronco, to cart the thing around.  It basically was a bra, consisting of one pocket instead of two cups and into that pocket was deposited this huge piece of equipment connected to a long cable that plugged into an ear mold that then plugged uncomfortably into my left ear.

As I hopped, skipped, jumped, walked, and ran through the day the hearing aid bumped, slid, flopped about, sometimes coming completely out in a jangle of cord tugging on my ear mold.  At those moments I must have looked like a fish just pulled out of the water on a fishing line.   I should add that later in the 60’s when the women’s movement advocated burning bras, I believe that I was one of a small group of American males who totally understood the sentiment and could readily support the movement for reasons beyond male sexism.

Looking back on all this there is one thing that comes to the foreground as I reflect on this whole thing.  I am thinking to myself:  YOU DOLT!  THE TOILET, FOR GOD SAKES!!!  There is was countless times each day, day in and day out, staring right in front of you.  The one opportunity never was taken to simply deposit the dang thing and send it off to toilet Nirvana.  What were you thinking!

Was it an opportunity lost or a disaster averted?  Depends on which side of the fence you sit and where it all relates to your life.  Did I ever learn to appreciate sound… to a limited extent yes but only for a small range of experiences related to music, sounds of the forest, and the wind on certain days (if the hearing aid microphone was not facing the wind) and a few other items such as that.

However, I have never lost the enjoyment of taking the thing off and basking in the tinnitus noises and other related silent experiences that are uniquely those of the Deaf.  Eventually came the day, in my mid-thirties, when it no longer served its purpose and I donated it away.  Yes, yes I know…another opportunity lost to send it off to toilet Nirvana.   What can I say?

Read Full Post »