№21 Can You Hear Me Now?
I called South Florida ENT Associates. I said, “I’d like to make an appointment for a hearing test.”
The receptionist asked my name, had I gotten a referral and, “What service can we help you with?”
I said, “I’d like to make an appointment for a hearing test.”
She said, “Oh, right.”
I thought: Is this woman not paying attention or does she need a hearing test?
My hearing is shit. When I’m lying on Sebastian’s bed waiting for him to pick a book and he says something into his bookshelf, I can’t hear him. When we’re sitting down to dinner and Tashi walks to the fridge and says something, I can’t hear her. When I’m driving Sebastian and he speaks to me from the back seat, I can’t hear him. I hear something, but I can’t make out the words.
I say “What?” like a parrot on purpose to make fun of myself, but I’m not really laughing. I’m really scared. I want to be able to hear my kids, who I think speak in a frequency only dogs can hear. I want them to feel that I’m listening.
When I was a kid, my mom made a big deal out of family dinners. She asked my brother and me about our days and then asked follow up questions. My stories meandered, but my mom always stayed with me. I felt like I mattered. I felt loved. But my dad would drift off. I’d be telling stories about the lives of my friends or even stories about me and he wouldn’t register the names of the friends I was talking about or even the way I felt about them.
I know hearing and listening are not the same, but I think having difficulty with either can lead to similar consequences. According to a New York Times article, “Hearing Loss Is Common but Often Untreated,” hearing loss leads to isolation and loneliness.
I don’t know if there are articles that say hearing loss leads to loneliness in the people around them who don’t feel heard, but I think it does.
On the morning of my appointment, I sat in the waiting room testing my ears. I could hear the TV blaring Fox News. I heard someone tap-tap on the Plexiglas window. I heard phones ringing. After a half-hour, I heard my name.
The doctor was a sweet-looking man around 60, white and tall with silver hair. He wore headgear with a light serious enough for spelunking. He turned on the light and looked into my ears, said they looked good.
A technician hooked me up with ear buds. He gave me a cord with a button and told me to press it if I heard a beep. My hand sweated on the button. I sat still, not breathing. I heard beep, beep, beep…I pressed the button. Some beeps where high, some were low. They went in one ear and then the other.
The technician asked me to repeat whatever words I could hear. I focused. “Color. Eardrum. Numb.” One word went past while I was breathing. Damn. Maybe there were some I didn’t hear at all. My hand was dripping sweat.
The doctor came in with my results printed out in nifty little charts and explained that I may have some high frequency hearing loss, but nothing that can be treated with hearing aids. Basically, he said, I was hearing fine.
I was so relieved. It was a weird relief because he gave me no remedy to hear my kids.
That night, I took my kids to visit my dad. He’s 77, so according to another New York Times article, half his peers suffer hearing loss. He doesn’t seem to, but I spoke loud anyway when I asked if he thinks he’s losing his hearing.
“I don’t know,” he said.
I told him I thought I was going deaf because I can’t hear my kids half the time.
He said, “You’re not paying attention.”
I said, “I am.”
He said, “No, you’re not.”
I said, “Did you hear me? I said I am paying attention.”
He wasn’t paying attention.
He said, “Don’t worry. Whatever you don’t hear, you’re not missing.”
I heard what he said perfectly and I felt totally lonely: lonely for my kids if my hearing gets worse, and lonely for me, the little kid who’s dad doesn’t think he missed anything.
This is №21 of my #weeklyessaychallenge. The author Ray Bradbury said something like write a story every week for a year because you can’t write 52 bad stories in a row.