My Dad is hearing impaired. He started losing his hearing in his 40s and without his hearing aids, he cannot hear very much.
Two thoughts on hearing aids:
1) Did you know hearing aids are NOT covered by insurance? Losing one of your 5 senses and being able to repair that damage with medical equipment is NOT, I mean NOT!!, covered by insurance. That is my definition of a sin.
2) As a mother, I can certainly see the benefits of turning off and/or taking out one's hearing aids on occasion.
SPEAKING of which (ha! a pun!), my eardrum ruptured last Saturday night. That means that I cannot hear much out of my left ear. The last time this happened was in 2005 (I remember because it was right after my first miscarriage). I only had one quiet child then, so I don't remember much about hearing problems at home. I do, however, remember being incredibly frustrated during a grad class because I could not understand what my students were saying. This is a real problem when the whole point of a grad class is discussing the readings and I couldn't understand what my students were discussing.
This latest loss of hearing occurred during Charlotte's worst snow storm in a decade. So I haven't had class (yet) but I have more (and louder) children at home. More than ever, I am wondering what it is like to be my Dad. One of the most surprising things was how overwhelming all the background noise has become. If I'm trying to talk with or listen to Dave, I cannot stand the kids' normal noises in the background. It is too much muted stimulation and too much effort to try to understand what is being said around me.
I also have to repeatedly tell everyone around me that I cannot hear them. I know they are talking at me, but I have NO IDEA what they are saying. Sometimes I guess correctly. And sometimes I guess wrong--as evidenced by the puzzled glance my way. Sometimes I just pretend that I understood what they said and smile and nod my head figuring that if it's really important, they will try to communicate again.
All this gives me so much more empathy for my Dad. I don't ever recall my Dad telling anyone he has a hearing loss. I can't go three hours without repeatedly reminding folks I have no idea what they are saying. Dad has always done a good job of figuring out what we are saying, or coming back with some (purposefully) misinterpreted sentence sort of based on what we saying that has turned into Jokes of Family Lore. That said, the improvement in hearing aids over 40 years has been AMAZING. And I think some of the time, Dad has developed a real intuition for what is going on.
But I have to think that for at least some periods of my father's life, it's been pretty frustrating to have all of that muted background noise and not be able to hear us. And yet, he did not scream at everyone to be quiet (ummm, maybe like I have) so he could hear. He has been very generous to us in his loss. And I'm not sure we've been as generous back to him.
I don't wish a perforated eardrum on anyone. But it might help all of us to understand a disability we can't see or even imagine.
XOXO to you, Dad.