Sneezing Galloping Giraffes
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
Last month, July 2019, I lost the last of my hearing in my left ear. I currently wear a hearing only in my right ear, (a loss of 70% improved to 56%) which assists in keeping me tuned in to the world around me. I should mention I concurrently suffer with tinnitus, the equivalent of a raucous never ceasing concert of cicadas in my head.
This complete loss of hearing doesn’t come as a surprise. It has been a long time coming, 45 years long. I was 14 when I noticed I had to hold the phone receiver to my left ear (my better ear back then) in order to understand the caller. It would be a couple years later before my parents were forced to address the issue when a random hearing test in high school revealed the loss. My first visit to an ear/nose/throat doctor resulted in a diagnosis of otosclerosis, a prescription for a hearing aid, and a prognosis of complete loss of hearing by the time I was in my 50’s.
My parents, being who they were, ignored the prescription and nothing was ever done. I’ll spare you the grief of attempting to do well in school/university and favorite activities like horse jumping and sailing when I could not understand what was being said most of the time. It was almost twenty years later, when I took opportunity of a surgery that would remove the hardening stapes bone in my left ear, replacing it with a tiny wire. It was a success, and I was able to hear again, with only 8% loss after the surgery. My right ear was only at 45% loss at that time. Even so, I will never forget coming home and being able to hear my cat purring from several feet away. Mundane sounds like the refrigerator hum, clothes tumbling in the drier, were all welcome.
Twenty-five year later, at 61, the ear with the surgery is now at loss of 100% and my right at 70%. I did better than that first ENT doctor predicted, with maybe a few more years left before I lose the last of my hearing in my right ear.
As I’ve aged, I can joke about my hearing loss, have no qualms in letting people know I need for them to speak a little louder, and find, for the most part, most people are patient enough to repeat themselves a few times. But I see the frustration some have with my inability to understand what is said sometimes. It does become easier to shy away from social gatherings. I miss a lot of what is said. Sometimes answer questions I wasn’t asked (because I did not hear them correctly). My head is often working overtime to fill in the words I didn’t catch in order to avoid asking people to repeat themselves. It can be more exhausting that it is worth. And seeing people look away or just feeling their own frustration over echoing themselves makes me feel badly. On the other hand, conversations with others who have the same issues with hearing can be a riot.
There is a new demon, seclusion, I have to fight daily to keep myself from retreating to my corner of the world and avoid contact with others. My determination is to continue to do as much as I can in groups or social events for as long as I can, because I know one day all hearing will be gone and it will truly become difficult. Right now, with just 30% auditory range, improved by a hearing aid to 56%, gatherings are tolerable. I do my best to keep conversation on my right side, and watch faces and gestures to augment what I miss.
My husband once told me the galloping giraffes are sneezing. To this day, neither of us remembers what he actually muttered back then, but we use that phrase when I completely mangle what I think he says. Dear man, 37 years of marriage and he still can’t remember to speak up.
I am not alone in this kind of hearing loss and I feel fortunate it is my hearing and not my sight. While I won’t be able to enjoy listening audible novels someday, at least I will still be able to read. I am grateful my sense of humor entertains me with ridiculous fill-in-the-blanks when I miss something.Even so, I think I will miss listening to music the most.
At least my work as an artist can and will continue for as long as I can work the clay, use a paint brush, and write.