It Must Suck to Have Normal Hearing

by Tina Blue
April 2, 2005

          Today was beautiful and sunny.

          I was walking down to the grocery store (I do that no matter what the weather, though, because I don't own a car), when I ran into a student of mine. He was not going anywhere in particular--just walking around, enjoying the weather.

          Since he had nowhere he had to be, he tagged along with me.

          As I always do when walking with someone, I asked him to move to my right side. Even with my hearing aids in, I can't hear much with my left ear, and I never wear my aids just for walking somewhere.

          Actually, I never wear my aids for anything I don't have to wear them for. But that's another story.

          As we walked and chatted, Dylan made an effort to speak clearly for me, and he did very well. I don't think I asked him to repeat himself more than twice during the entire walk.

          When I went into the store, he stayed outside and waited for me. When I came back out, he started walking with me again, but this time he was on my left side. People who are not used to walking with me always have to be reminded to walk to my right. When I asked him to switch sides again, he said sympathetically, "Man, it must really suck to be deaf!"

          Imagine his surprise when I said, "Actually, no, not always. Sometimes I really like it." He was so startled he stopped walking and stared at me.

          "Not really?" he said, obviously thinking I was being sarcastic.

           "Yes, more often than you would expect," I answered.

          I have often written about how convenient it sometimes is not to be subjected to all the noises that hearing people must deal with all the time. Sure, I miss the convenience of easy conversation, and I miss being able to attend live drama and lectures. I miss being able to go to a movie in a theater, and even with closed captioning it is sometimes hard to follow the dialogue in movies on DVD, especially if I also want to see what action is taking place on screen or what expressions the characters have on their faces as they speak and respond to one another.

          Teaching is complicated sometimes by having to ask my students to speak up or repeat themselves, and for sure I could do without the rudeness and impatience so often displayed by thoughtless or inconsiderate people.

          It would be nice to be able to enjoy group activities or family holidays rather than being left out and treated like a fifth wheel.

          Oh, yes, being severely hearing-impaired certainly can be inconvenient at times.

     But I am not sure I would want to have perfect hearing, even if I could.  I might go for somewhat improved hearing, but I think I would not like having no hearing loss at all. Even before my hearing got as bad as it now is, I sometimes heard more than I really wanted to hear.

          When I was 18 (in 1968), my hearing loss was mild at certain frequencies in one ear and mild to moderate at certain frequencies in the other. I didn't have too much trouble, except in conversations with real mumblers. Even then, though, the ambient noise was sometimes more than I could bear--and you know as well as I do that it is far nosier now than it was back in 1968. I honestly don't know how hearing people tolerate the cacophony of modern life!

          Actually, I really would like to be able to turn deafness on and off at will. Believe it or not, I would choose to be hearing impaired most of the time. I would turn on my hearing occasionally, for specific purposes, but probably not all that often.  For movies, TV, conversations, classes, public lectures and performances I would choose to hear well. But the rest of the time, I might choose to be even deafer than I already am.

          I am a bit of a recluse, since I like to spend most of my time reading, writing, and thinking. Those activities call for solitude. I enjoy people, but I need a lot of time by myself. Even when I am out in the world, with other people around, I often prefer to detach myself from the crowd and observe rather than interacting with others. In public I am often in my own little world. Being hearing impaired helps me to achieve the self-enclosed detachment that suits me so well.

          I think that much of the time it must suck to be able to hear.
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