Those that know me know I'm a talker. Now contrary to popular belief, I DO listen too, but I talk. I talk a LOT and at great length and depth about many things. I love to debate and bounce ideas off people, and I enjoy making people laugh with my stupid puns and clever word plays. Mom and I used to do word plays and now my hubby and I spend time in the car or laying in bed making horribly painful word puns and laughing. Meniere's includes a symptom that sneaks up on me sometimes: fluctuating hearing loss. Sure my hearing is dropping off a little at a time, but it also fluctuates every day. It is a strange sensation to wake up to the alarm one morning, and not be able to hear it the next. It is even stranger to be almost stone deaf when you wake up, and back to the "new normal" by dark.
The fear of being deaf washes over me like great waves along a stormy coast on those days I can't hear. I wonder if that is the new normal, or will tomorrow be better. I have never been one to enjoy silence for extended periods of time. I prefer to have lots of music or noise around. It keeps my mind from wondering off into that dark place of self-doubt. When I had my last hearing test almost a year ago, and it became apparent my hearing was indeed fading, I began to grieve. I didn't plan on feeling sad, it just happened. I started to notice the things we take for granted every day: the birds chirping, the sounds the car makes, music I never really liked, and the laughter and soothing voice of my dear husband. It didn't dawn on me how dangerous not being able to hear was until I walked out in front of a car I didn't see. I heard a car what sounded like it was far away. It wasn't. My husband pulled me back just in the nick of time. The second time we were in a darkened parking lot and I never heard the car. I think it was then that the reality of loosing something as important as my hearing became clear. Sure the decline overall is slow, and I may never be totally deaf, but not being able to hear things like cars is a big deal. Not hearing the door to the house open, or not being able to understand a student when I sub is a big deal. I forget and leave the water on sometimes, and I don't hear it when I walk down the hall. I have the TV turned up so loud some days I'm sure one of the busy body neighbors across the street will hear it while delivering religious tracks to save my Methodist soul. (I didn't know it needed saving, I thought Jesus was Jesus, but that's another story). I may not hear the cat if she gets closed up in a closet, and forget hearing my cell phone in my pocket.
I have to make little changes to how I function as I go. I'm learning to read lips. I keep the kitchen timer with me if I have to leave the stove for a moment. My kitten is my most reliable alarm clock. She paws me when I don't hear mine go off (she has it down to the minute so I don't even need it really). I double and triple check the closets and porch so that I don't loose my dear Artemis in some closed up place. I take it day to day, not knowing what each day will bring. I don't sing as loud in church anymore because I sound so horrible now that I can't hear the music as well (not that I sounded great to begin with, but I digress). And I wonder what its going to be like when the day comes when I have to get a hearing aid. I'm only thirty-four, and I'm thinking about my hearing like I'm seventy-four.
I pray I won't ever wake up to no sounds again. Its happened before and it was frightening. I pray I won't need hearing aids or an implant, and I pray I won't need surgery to remove the inner workings of my ears so that I can live comfortably, but be deaf in the process. I beg God every night I won't loose anymore independence than I already have. The odds are not in my favor.
So I sit at the computer and listen. I can hear the clicking of the keys, the hum of the router and even the clock on the wall ticking. I can sometimes hear the video game my hubby is playing, but I can't make out the words. Today is a good day. Tonight when I go to bed, I will lay on my "good" side and the only thing I will hear is my dear husband's silly puns, oh and the ringing. The ringing never quite goes away. I won't hear Artemis playing (unless its really loud), I won't hear the cars on the road, and I won't hear the phone should it ring. When I lay on my "bad" side, I will hear most of those things, though they will seem so far away.
The one thing I will listen for, every morning when I awake, is the sound of silence. Its then that I will wonder if yesterday is the last thing I will have ever heard. So just in case, I try to say "I love you" just before I drift off so if I do wake up deaf, the last thing I will have heard is my hubby say "I love you too".