Friday, November 20, 2020

Under the Mask

I live with a partially deaf person. The love of my life was born with hearing in only one ear. And as the years have passed and with the daily wear and tear on his hearing, he has about 60-70% hearing loss. He does have bilateral hearing aids which are only as good as the person that will WEAR them. 

I have Tinnitus (the ringing in the ears), more like constant chirping in my ears. I have likened it to having about a million cicadas chirping right next to your ear. What I am finding, as I age, my hearing certain tones has diminished significantly. The audiologist report has shown that it is progressively getting worse. Hearing aids may help, they say, but at the cost of $3000, it is not a sure guarantee. Health insurance does not cover Hearing Aids. But that is a whole nother agenda as we boomers age.

So I have learned a few tricks to give me some relief from the chirping. Earbuds and music help in the wee hours of the night when the house is quiet and the only sound is the annoying chirping. During the day, there is usually enough white noise around that will distract it enough. Only when it is quiet as in the quiet of nature, will it be somewhat aggravating.

And then it is actually painful to hear that constant noise in my ears.

I have discovered that with my hearing loss, I have unconsciously relied on lip reading when in a place that I can not hear a person. I will look at their mouth and read their lips. And I never realized it until the age of Covid-19 and masking, how dependent I am on lip reading. My husband, at an early age, in school for the deaf and HOH was taught to rely on lip reading at a young age. Me, I have picked it up along the way as my hearing deteriorates.

With the virus running rampant and masking in public being required, this has presented a few problems for us. And I am sure many others who have hearing loss may be able to relate. Negotiating around in public with people masked is a challenge. No longer can you lip read what they are saying. With half of the face covered, along with the mouth covered, much of a person’s outward personality is no longer visible. The person talking to you, are they happy, are they upset, are they just hanging on by a thread…it is just hard to know.

Yes you can see into a person’s eyes and get a feel for their emotion, but without the lower half of the face you may never know. You miss out on their smile, their grimace, even their clenched teeth.

I have found myself, these days, trying to listen to a person speak under a mask. I’ve tried to not keep asking them to repeat themselves, unless I think it is important. I also find myself extremely on edge and tense trying with all my being to actually hear them and understand what they are saying. And I am finding this to be an exhausting task. I have gained much new empathy for people who are hearing impaired or totally deaf. 

Wouldn’t it be nice if all masks had a clear shield around the mouth so those that need it could see the face and read the lips? Or if all of us were taught from the moment we could learn, American Sign Language as a second language? But I have digressed.

What I really have been concerned about is our lack of being able to see the person in front of us as a whole person. In this day and age, we are separated enough. I want to be able to see a person’s smile again, see their total emotion on their whole face. I want so bad, to be able to see and hear what a person is saying to me without exhaustion setting in. WIll this come soon?  I don’t know.

But for now, I am hoping we all can abide with the masking mandate for the good of all of us. It is an inconvenience for many and an actual disability for others. I hope we can all be on board as a nation to knock down this awful, debilitating and life-changing virus.

Let’s all pitch in and do our part. And if you come across a person that looks confused or maybe aloof as you speak to them, please understand it may be that they just aren’t hearing you as you speak. 

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