Walk a Mile in Their Shoes - Going Deaf and Hearing Again
By Angela e Joyce
You wake up one day and you wonder why your alarm didn’t go off. You look over at your clock on the bedside table and think, Huh, that is strange…I must have slept through the alarm. As you become more awake, you realize something is off. Where are the birds? You open the curtains and see them hopping around. Then you notice there is no sound noise of the usual traffic. Where are the cars? Did I sleep through the apocalypse? Why is the world so quiet? With each minute, you realize more and more that something is wrong, but you don’t know what or why. The silence that was so pleasant in your slumber has grown into a monster that captured you.
This can’t be happening to me. You rush over to the TV and turn it on to the local news station, you can see the mouths of the people on the screen moving but you can’t hear anything. You turn up the volume and at about 70% you start to hear what can only be described as voices underwater. At the TV’s max volume, the voices are still muffled but louder. Panic starts to creep in. Your heart is racing faster and faster. You call your mom. You watch to see when the phone tells you that she picked up and then you begin crying, barely able to get the words out you say,
“MOM!...mom…help me….I…I…Can’t hear….ANYTHING! NOTHING!...help me, mom!”
You can’t hear her response so you tell her that you are going to the hospital and if she can, to meet you there.
At the hospital, they confirm the terrible news. It’s partial deafness in both ears from Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. You retained about 30% of your ability to hear but without a hearing aid, you will never hear fully again. Your love of going to loud rock concerts have caught up with you.
Further follow-ups on your condition have taught you how to cope with your disability and hearing aids are an option to improve quality of life.Unfortunately, their cost range from $300-$10,000.Much too expensive on your minimum wage salary working at the gas station.There’s no way I can afford that….I barely make enough to pay the bills.
Years go by and the hearing loss doesn’t improve. After learning sign language and reading people's lips, you are now able to communicate with the people around you… some of the time. Other times you smile and nod hoping you don’t seem like too much of an idiot. You try your best to stay positive and happy for those around you, but there is always a sense of sadness and despair in the background. You talk to a therapist and take antidepressants. It helps a bit but you’re not the same person you were. The old you hung out with friends, went to the movies, took road trips. Now you shy away from social interactions because it’s hard to be engaged in conversation when it takes so much to communicate. The strange looks, the isolation, and the desire to fit in are painfully evident every day and make you feel consistently ostracized.
One day a family member sends you an email about a hearing aid program where one could possibly receive a high-quality hearing aid if they qualified. You jump at the opportunity filled with hope at the prospect of being able to hear fully again. Anxiously waiting, you finally receive a notice in the mail 14 days later that you would be one of the lucky individuals to receive a hearing aid come the month's end.
The big day arrives. You and your mom show up at the facility where the hearing aid would be activated. After a short wait, a young woman comes out to greet you and take you to the fitting room. It’s finally happening…I hope this works…. They place a small square-shaped device behind your ear. You take a deep breath to try and calm yourself.
“Can you hear me now?” The young woman says as she signs.
You shake your head. She adjusts the device.
“How about now? Can you hear me?” She says
“No. I ca…” You start to speak, but the foreign yet familiar sound of your own voice stops you mid-sentence.
You smile and your heart skips a beat recognizing the reality of hearing again – having your life back after all these years trapped in the bubble of silence and muffled sounds. Feeling like a bird being released from a cage, tears well up in your eyes.
“Oh my love, I’m so happy for you.” Your mom says with tears streaming down her face.
The sweet sound of your mother's voice puts you over the edge and you begin to bawl. Gratitude filling every inch of your body, mind, and soul. There was no room for anything but joy.
“How can I thank you enough?” The comforting sound of your own voice vibrating through you.
The young woman says, “It is a gift to be able to do this work every day and I am so glad that we were able to help you today”.
You smile thinking about the possibilities of the many tomorrows. As you leave the building, it starts to rain. You hear the pitter-patter of the raindrops, the cars, the siren in the distance.As sounds fill the life around you, gratitude cannot express the fulfillment you feel in this moment, only joy, joy, joy.