I first noticed I was having trouble hearing when I was pregnant with my daughter, Megan, who is now 3 years old. I remember putting the phone receiver on my left ear and not being able to hear the other person on the line clearly. I would switch to the right ear, thinking, "How strange."
The day I had my 20 week sonogram and learned my second baby was a girl, I had an appointment with an audiologist. I explained I was having difficulty hearing and I underwent a hearing exam. I think the doctor was stunned that at 33 years old, I had pretty significant hearing loss in my left ear and some loss in my right ear. He suggested I get an MRI to rule out any brain issues that might be causing that loss. My father's family has a history of early hearing loss, so I was pretty certain I inherited that. I did the MRI the next day, but then Hurricane Sandy hit Long Island and I had to wait on the results. Thankfully, everything was fine. But I was left with the knowledge that my hearing was reduced and hearing aides were likely needed.
At the time, I was a kindergarten teacher, mom to a 2 year old, and pregnant, so getting hearing aides wasn't top on my list. I waited until a few months after Megan was born, made the appointment and tried hearing aides. I figured it would be a simple solution.
Like most things in my life, it wasn't an easy fix. The first hearing aides I got didn't sit right in my ears and didn't work properly. The next set didn't seem to help with clarity at all- the rip of a paper towel was deafening but I still couldn't make out what someone was saying on television. When I put baby Megan on my shoulder, near my new hearing aides, her cries were ear-splitting. I wear my hair up a lot and felt a little uneasy about having visible hearing aides, if I'm being totally honest. With the cost of the hearing aides at thousands of dollars, I returned them while I could still get my money's worth. I shelved the idea of wearing hearing aides.
Not being able to hear correctly is tough. I answer questions wrong all the time because I thought the person asked me something different, especially when I don't know the context of the conversation. If I'm not looking at you, I often cannot understand what you are saying. If you call me from another room, I might not even know you called me and certainly won't know what you asked me. At parties, the background noise really interferes with my ability to hear, often causing me stress and embarrassment as I pretend I know what is being said to me.
This weekend, driving home from a party we were at, my sister asked me again why I don't get hearing aides, saying if it was her, she would do it. I became so upset. Angry. Defensive. I said I tried them, and they didn't help and you really shouldn't presume to know what you would do because you aren't in my shoes. She worked for years as a litigator so doesn't easily let things drop and made some counterpoints about seeing a specialist and trying again. I could hear every word she said, but it was nothing I wanted to listen to. Some things are hard to hear, even when you actually hear the words correctly.
When I'm drinking diet soda and people say how terrible it is for you, when a loved one tells me I should move around more and eat better, when someone tells me I need more sleep or I'm taking on too many projects, when it's suggested I let my son spend too much time on the iPad....these are things that are really hard to hear. I don't want to know. I don't want the judgment. I don't want to change. But the hardest things to hear are usually those ideas that I've known to be true but wish weren't so, the things that are really going to be hard to change, the things that are going to make my life more uncomfortable. The things I might fail at. The things I don't like about myself and want to pretend don't exist.
I want to tune those words out, to think it's their problem not mine, to think of all the millions of ways they are wrong and I am right. But those hard words to hear have a funny way of reverberating through my mind and heart, and somewhere deep inside, I know I've been giving myself an out and not facing up to the truth. Maybe my own voice is the hardest of all to really hear.