Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Last week, I started to feel a little like an old dog that someone might think had to be put down. I couldn’t hear anything out of my right ear and a crown on one of my teeth came off. Since I didn’t swallow the crown, that glitch was easily remedied, but the blocked ear defied health care professionals' intervention for a few days (turns out my eustachian tube was blocked.) It has cleared now (thank you, thank you, thank you) but the seven days of impaired hearing was, in hindsight, a gift.

We all know the one about needing to walk a mile in another’s shoes if we want to understand them. But sometimes it’s impossible to imagine ourselves in another’s place, and it is easy forget that others are not having the same experience we're having.

So it is with humility that I apologize to those I know who have had hearing loss for any moments of irritation I have had with their struggle. Trying to function in a noisy world with partial hearing loss is. . . .exhausting. In crowded restaurants the din is overwhelming and requires enormous focus to hear what table companions are saying. And giving up- while a relief from the trying- feels incredibly isolating, like you’ve just stepped out of a certain kind and level of connection with others.

And I knew- or at least was hoping and guessing- that my situation was temporary, repairable. If your hearing loss is permanent or progressive, I cannot imagine how much fortitude it takes to hang in there and try to listen and participate.

I think of my father whose hearing declined with age, and how he withdrew from conversations, stopped going to church, was increasingly reluctant to go to large restaurants. Family members urged him not to give up, and truthfully, I was mystified at how much he disengaged.

Now I get it.

You know, as someone who was diagnosed over thirty years ago with a chronic illness (CFS/FM) that many do not acknowledge or understand, you’d think that I would “get” that I was not “getting” what it was like for my father and others I knew who were losing their hearing.

Which is all to say that I am grateful for last week’s hearing loss- almost as grateful as I am for its restoration. It has rooted a needed awareness in my body, reminded me that even though in some sense we are One, every other is also wholly other with their own history, inner and outer challenges and resources. Remembering this, each encounter becomes an opportunity to explore the Mystery of the other. And for this, I am deeply grateful.

Oriah © 2013 (You can subscribe to this weekly blog by putting your email in at the bottom of the green panel on the right hand side of this page.)


  1. Thank you for sharing your impressions. I didn't have a clue either how it is to be hearing-impaired. In fact, my ears are still very good, but now I can be more forbearing with others.

  2. Speaking of a good dose of humility, it makes me step back and wonder how many people I thought were ignoring me or just seemed distant when, in fact, it was something very different.
    This is a vivid reminder that my perception might be very wrong. It's really tough to realize how many times I reacted on what I thought.

    1. Exactly Ann- really makes us pause and consider if our assumptions (which seem so reasonable at the time) are accurate. :-)