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.