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Sunday, February 24, 2013


When I recently took over as boss, I told the women in the office that they didn’t have to whisper their criticisms of me.  Go ahead and talk.  I can’t hear you anyway.  They laughed and said they already knew that.

We were joking, but whispers quite honestly piss me off.  I can’t hear them, and whispering feels like something someone is doing to torment me.  1 in 5 Americans have hearing loss in one ear, and 1 in 8 have it in both ears.  

No, I didn’t go to a bunch of rock concerts, and it isn’t my fault.  I’m not a leper; I’d just appreciate it if you’d get my attention before speaking and speak facing me.  Hearing aids are expensive, aren’t covered by insurance, and mostly amplify background noise.  Maybe I’ll get them someday, but that day hasn’t come.

It’s an isolating, invisible disability.  It’s like I’m supposed to have a red X on my forehead indicating that I’m not making it up, but I don’t look any different than anyone else.  Some people just don’t understand when I say “speak up!” “sorry?” “what?” “say again?”  “huh?” “would you repeat that?” 

Last time I checked, I’m operating on about half of normal hearing, with loss in both ears.  I had an interesting exam where I was supposed to repeat words a woman said.  I have to hear words in context to get the meaning of things, and random words are impossible for me, especially when I couldn’t see the woman’s mouth.  “Bike” could be anything.  Diet, bat, bad, bite, dog, cat?  Is this multiple choice?  The testing woman’s eyes expressed surprise, disappointment, and incredulity.  My frustration level went up, and I failed the test in flames.

I failed my first hearing test in 3rd grade.  It was the first test I had ever taken that I hadn’t aced.  My parents discussed it in the living room, and I have no idea what they said.  Murmur, murmur, murmur was something I was used to hearing, but now I knew that wasn’t normal.  I was defective, and did everything in my power to hide that from regular, untainted people.

Okay, sometimes I give myself a pity party when the ringing in my head is too loud, or I can’t hear the sweet nothings a lover whispers in my ear, or I missed the punchline of a joke, but mostly I cope.  Everybody’s got something they have to deal with, and I suppose we’ll all have more stuff to deal with as we get older.  All I ask is please speak up!

Despite my religious job, I like non-religious hymns, and I figure this is a good one no matter what spiritual pursuits you follow.  Besides, this is one I can actually plunk out on a piano.  It’s by Clara H. Scott (1841-1897).  Somehow I remember my Sunday school class singing this with a lot more gusto than I can find on youtube…

Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth thou hast for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unclasp and set me free.
Silently now I wait for Thee,
Ready my God, Thy will to see,
Open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

Open my ears, that I may hear
voices of truth thou sendest clear;
and while the wavenotes fall on my ear,
everything false will disappear.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my ears, illumine me, Spirit divine!

Open my mouth, and let me bear
gladly the warm truth everywhere;
open my heart and let me prepare
love with thy children thus to share.
Silently now I wait for thee,
ready, my God, thy will to see.
Open my heart, illumine me, Spirit divine!


  1. Before I even read your post Linda I saw that image and my first thought was "that looks like someone feeling so very vulnerable". Hearing loss is indeed an invisible disability which a lot of people try to cover up. I am glad that you are open about this and I really hope that you do not feel as vulnerable as your image. You are never less than any other person, everyone is equal...remember that. Hugs xx

  2. Friends can understand and it's quite okay
    Others can misunderstand make it a problem.
    I know the real problem is not the words they say
    But what they mean when they say them.

    Peace out,

  3. Well I really do know how you feel. Only you've gone through it a lot longer than I. Never the less quite frustrating. Especially when you work with someone that speaks ever so softly. As long as you and I stay on..., my right, your left?? we're ok? :) Interesting illo-I like how you walled it in. Perfect message.

  4. I think maybe we both favor our right ML? Doesn't matter over the dining room table drinking a cup of tea :)

    Sometimes I feel vulnerable Jane, but most of the time I don't think about it too much. I'm thinking about it more lately since I'm working in a religious place and people tend to talk in hushed tones.

    Good point Rand! It's what's meant much more than what's actually said. Remember, most communication is really nonverbal.

    Thanks for the comments!

  5. I didn't know this about you. That's another thing I like about reading blogs, we can (usually) see past another's seeming "limitations" to who they are.
    Your illustration is very fitting!

  6. Some people who know me in person don't know this about me either, but I'm guessing most people have caught on. I've learned a lot of people have challenges we don't see. It reminds me to be nicer sometimes. Sometimes :)

  7. So pretty. I was forced to go to Sunday School. Oh, how I hated it. Church even more so. Now I don't go at all. Even though I'm a believer. When I say I'm a believer it sounds like I'm a member of a cult. And I've been brain washed. But I digress...

  8. I believe this is hard for people to understand because it is seldom spoken of or written about for that matter. Bravo, Linda! June Maddox

  9. Wonderful, heart-felt post, Linda. This is what I like best about your blog: the honesty of your writing, the real-ness of your posts. You are right...we each have our handicaps, and most of them are not even visible. Most of us do our best to cover them up and pretend to be Normal (whatever that is!). As an example of taking life and all its material world limitations as "guides" not "handicaps," the artist Ali Cavenaugh (also affected by hearing loss) notes in her artist statements how that her hearing reality has formed her approach to her artwork. Now that I know this about your own hearing limitation, I see just one more factor in why you seem to notice so much, reflect upon so much in life, in people. That makes it more of a gift than a loss, right? It's the Wounded Healer archetype...and God knows, our planet needs more of those...

  10. Correct spelling: Ali Cavanaugh. A link to her abbreviated artist statement mentioning her hearing loss is here: http://www.alicavanaugh.com/?page_id=198 She talks more about it in other interviews and magazine features, which can probably be Googled.

  11. My Sunday school class was made up of the nicest kids, and we all liked to sing enthusiastically about bloody lambs and Christian soldiers or whatever else had a good rousing tempo. I have to admit church is a lot more boring :)

    Sometimes I wonder why poor hearing is so seldom discussed when it's so common. Probably everyone who's got the problem is still trying to fake their way through things too?

    Thanks so much for the link Susan! Ali does beautiful work. I hadn't really thought about my hearing problems as why I'm so visual. Now that you mention it, it seems ridiculous that I haven't connected those dots before. I'm glad to claim the "Wounded Healer" label. You're right, we can use more of those!

  12. I am so sorry to learn of your disability, especially when I look at your illustration that captures so well the feeling of isolation (and from music, too, that is meant to bring joy to one’s life) and when you describe your experience of being defective already as a child. I admire you all the more for your positive view on life which you let us participate in in your blog.

  13. As you can imagine, I talk loud. To everyone. Whether or not you have hearing loss.

    So there's that.

  14. A lot of interpretation in your image. It speaks volumes. The whole post (song included) does.

  15. Score one for Josh for talking loud! :) Thanks for the comments everybody!

  16. Linda! This image, this post..it is wonderful in that you shed light on something most people don't have any relation to. I have a friend who is now losing her hearing and it still has not dawned on me at how hard it must be to not be able to hear those whispers, every little thing that goes on. You crack me up re: what you said to the women in the office. I always feel a bit more enlightened when I visit you, Linda. I've missed a lot and hope you've been well! Thanks for your kind visit recently!

  17. Greetings Linda, boy, now we find out! I didn't know you were religious otherwise I would have been nice to you :) Hmm, your illustration is very moving and emotive, it complements your thoughts so well. Did you know that in Australia 50 percent of men are death in their left ear (hint: most men insist on driving their wives around because we are "boys' and want to have control - and our drivers sit on the right of our cars) That selective hearing combined with our inability to find things that are sitting right in front of us make Australian men a lot of fun to be with :).

    See you I hope you are well. I have been on hols - shh don't tell anyone!

  18. hmm better make that "deaf" in there left ear. "Death" is probably an uncessary complication in this case. Lucky I can spell "sit"!

  19. I don't think selective hearing falls in the same category Andrew, but then maybe sometimes it does? Despite working for a religious organization and having a fondness for hymns, I wouldn't call myself religious -- but working around religious people is an interesting experience. Maybe I'll write something about that some day.

    Good luck with your friend Shirley! I think it's often harder for people who lose their hearing later in life, so try to help her out as much as you can.

    Thanks for the comments!

  20. I remember being encouraged to sing those hymns out loud and to speak softly. Now, they'd discourage me from singing too loud and I'm constantly being asked to speak up...Good thing we have blogs to express ourselves on our own terms! And you do this beautifully, consistently, at any level! :o)

  21. I was given the same message Michele. "Make a joyful noise" and all that -- but at the same time told to be modest all the time. Hmmm...
    Thanks for giving me something to ponder :)