Monday, June 17, 2013

The sound of silence?

Cliff started losing his hearing fifteen or twenty years ago.  It was only a minor inconvenience at first, but as time went on I could tell it was rapidly getting worse.  I have no doubt that he will end up totally deaf.  
"What about hearing aids?" I can hear my readers asking.  Well, first of all, it's hearing "aid", singular.  His left ear was so bad when he first got it checked out that there was nothing to be done for it.  The first hearing aid he got for his right ear was the cheapest kind, an in-ear device.  It was hardly ever in his ear, though, because it magnified unwanted noise just as much as what he wanted to hear.  He hated it.  
Later on we got a more expensive one that magnifies only the sounds you want to hear, and he wears it when he's inside conversing or watching TV.  If he's doing noisy things like driving a tractor or operating some noisy power tool in the shop, he leaves it in the house; in fact, he seldom wears it if he's going to the shop.  He usually removes the hearing aid when we go for our walk because if it's windy, the wind makes so much noise that he can't hear anything else.  Also, he sweats profusely in warmer weather and sweat renders the hearing aid useless. 
Until Cliff began getting deaf, I never realized how much we depend on our hearing to connect with people.  It seems as though at least half the teenagers in the world mumble or speak too rapidly, or both.  Cliff depends a lot on lip-reading, and some folks have the habit of turning their heads away from the person they are talking to, or covering their mouths with a hand, making it impossible for Cliff to know what they're saying.  
Cliff says "What?" quite a bit.  After he has said it in vain two or three times to a person who refuses to raise her voice, he often gives up.  So people think he knows something they told  him, but because he was too embarrassed to keep asking them to repeat it, he doesn't have a clue what they said.  This leads to misunderstandings and miscommunication.  If he is in a group of people carrying on several conversations at once, he misses almost all of it.    
Deafness isolates a person.  People begin treating a hard-of-hearing person as though he were mentally challenged.
Adding to Cliff's problem is tinnitus, so in spite of his deafness, he never knows silence.  When this started, he said it sounded like he was in a woods with cicadas, crickets, and other such insects making all the noise they could.  Now the tinnitus is louder and sounds to him like there is a washing machine or dishwasher running near him all the time.  
As I was pondering his problem yesterday, I recalled my paternal grandfather.  As far back as I can remember, he was extremely deaf.  To compound the problem, he was also practically blind.  He lived with my Uncle Orville and his family.  When we went to visit, Aunt Ruth would lead me up to him as close in front of him as possible and shout at the top of her lungs, "Dad?  This is Everett and Lola's girl, Donna."  
He would sort of nod and say a word or two.  
I don't know what he would have been like to chat with, because his handicaps had robbed him of his personality.  Oh, it was in there somewhere, but when a person can't communicate with others, the personality can't really show through.  All I remember about Grandpa was that he was always sitting in a rocker in the corner, silently smoking his pipe.    
Until the last couple of months, Cliff could still enjoy his favorite country music station on the Sirius radio in the shop.  Then fate decided to play another cruel joke on him and the music started sounding garbled to his ears.  It's been that way ever since.  
It makes me very sad to think about Cliff being robbed of his music.  If you think I'm sad, how do you suppose he feels?  
When he and I are together, I can tell if he isn't hearing what someone says and I'll repeat it to him without his asking; I did this a lot when he was in the hospital:  the nurse would ask a question, I'd see confusion on Cliff's face, and I'd tell him what she had said.  Thank goodness I have a very loud voice.  
If you know someone who is hard of hearing, be patient.  Watch their facial expressions and you may be able to tell whether they hear you or not.  Please, please, PLEASE speak up and speak plainly.  


Christine said...

This is exactly what Roy is experiencing, including the ringing in the ears that won't stop. I repeat a lot and have only recently realized that when we are at family events, he's not "just shy". He actually can't join in. Thanks for sharing.

Becky said...

So sorry to hear about Cliff's hearing. My parents are both suffering from loss, but my Dad is the only one who will admit it. He told me the real trick is finding someone skilled at fittings and not out to just make a buck. Good article here: Dad's doctor also suggested a vitamin B-12 supplement and Vitamin E. Nothing cures it, but those two can help ease symptoms. Just check with his doc to be sure they won't mess with any of his medications. I've talked with my Dad about getting a tablet if it ever gets to the point where he can't hear people at all. Then we can text message him or write on the tablet when he can't figure out what someone is saying. Hearing aid tech has come a long way in recent years. Might be worth finding a specialist to see if Cliff's quality of life can be improved.

Paula said...

I know where you're coming from. we have the same exact problem here. Even watching TV I have to repeat things to him. John is almost to the point he doesn't want to go anywhere without me bacause he depends on me so much. He has macular degeneraton too so I warn him about step-down places when walking.

Rita Mosquita said...

You would think that by now there would be some headway in how to deal with hearing besides hearing aides. I know there is surgery for a few causes, but the rest are just left with hearing loss. Maybe it will take a talented surgeon or researcher to lose their hearing, or someone close to them, for them to realize how important hearing loss is.

Celeste Sanders said...

Having a profound hearing loss all my life, I know about the sounds that are not heard. I have no problem telling people that I cannot hear them, but some people do not get the message and still will not speak up or look at me. I recognized that Pat had a hearing loss long before he admitted it. He has top of the line aids thanks to the VA but like Cliff, he leaves them out at times(too many times). All my like people thought I was "special" because I was hearing impaired. 2 college degrees later I still get that response from some people. I have been called rude, snotty, stuck up and a number of names amd that was as a adult. It is hard growing up barely hearing things in a hearing world. Get this, the deaf world does not accept me because I do not sign etc


You described my husband's hearing problem too. He also has tinnitus that literally drives him crazy. I'm sorry Cliff has to go through this.

Jon said...

I don't know if it's only coincidence, but it seems that far more men have this problem than women. My father was losing his hearing shortly before he died. My Mom had macular degeneration.
Cliff must be feeling a profound sense of frustration and helplessness. Can anything at all be done for his deafness?

I never realized the psychological ramifications of deafness until I read about the composer Beethoven, who lost his hearing in his 30's. He became completely isolated from society and often considered suicide. Deafness is such a horrible affliction.

Margaret said...

That would be awful! Patt was a bit hard of hearing because of all the power tools he used in his work, but my dad is extremely HOH. He won't use hearing aids and we try to talk loudly and clearly. (my younger daughter mumbles and talks fast so he doesn't understand her well) Dad sometimes holds his hand up to his ear,smiles and says, "Eh? I need my ear trumpet." Makes us all laugh.

Melissa Wiggins said...

Ah, yes - the deaf husband. All the workshop machines, all the music, all throughout the years have caused damage and now we struggle with "old" ears. Will continues to get deaf-er as the months and years progress. I often accuse him of being "selectively" deaf -- but it's one of the main reasons I need to be with him in the hospital and doctor's offices. He frequently wont' ask for repetition so I end up repeating everything. He gets part of what folks say but key words or phrases are missing. Like Cliff he's tried hearing aids but being a musician with adaptive pitch they drove him nuts. Certain pitch ranges causes real problems. Beethoven had music that played in his head -- I know Will does, too -- and I bet so does Cliff.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

It does seem to be a common problem as we get older. Good thing Cliff has you around most of the time to help out with the problem. To be able to hear is a blessing and one of those things we don't think about much.

SueAnn said...

I am having the same problem with my mother. She has been hard of hearing since she was born. She has a dead nerve in her ear and has to wear 2 hearing aids. It has gotten progressively worse and now even her family members shut her out because they say she is acting like she can't hear. It is frustrating to see them treat her that way. I am so grateful for you to post such a thing. I just wish more people were more considerate.