Cumberland Times-News

Maude McDaniel - Living

August 27, 2011

Back in the old days when one could hear

When I wrote this column in October of 1982, I could still hear without hearing aids, thanks to a good doctor and some timely operations! Alas, those days are gone forever. In later years I have had to resort to hearing aids on both sides, and, despite helpful technicians, these are far from perfect. Just ask my family, and some long-suffering friends. They will be so glad to tell you about it!

Nobody’s perfect and I have this ear that doesn’t work. It’s my left one, but the odd thing is that for 17 years it was my right one that couldn’t hear. Then I had an operation, when a very large doctor attached a very small Teflon tip in place of a bone that had stopped vibrating, and suddenly I could hear again.

It was like a whole new world, everything booming and crashing and screeching that used to thud and buzz and hiss. My pillow was so noisy, all those feathers bending and cracking under my ear, I couldn’t sleep for years.

I was just getting used to all the racket when my left ear went out. It’s not as bad as the other one, and I’ve been living with it for some time now. In fact, there are certain advantages to living with a deaf ear that I’ve decided I’d hate to give up. If you’ve got a couple of seconds, I’ll mention them.

Partial deafness means getting to hear all kinds of sounds normal people miss. Bells ringing when it’s not Sunday, ocean waves in the mountains, poppings and cracklings that’ll entertain you for hours. Saves the price of a radio.

Partial deafness means giving enjoyment to your children. I can’t say how much entertainment I’ve provided the kids, because I never heard any of it, except a little universal merriment after some comment of mine. All I know is that I have a marvelous reputation for (unintended) wit. If one of the children said, “Can I have a dime?” and I answered, “It’s going on three o’clock,” it was apparently hilarious.

Partial deadness livens up one’s love life, too. I know a joke about that I’m not going to include, but I’ve been told that there is a unique fascination about a women who, when her husband whispers over their anniversary dinner, “I love you, dear,” answers, “No, mine’s delicious.”

It’s also a protective device against those mutterings under the breath which even the best of children indulge in, from time to time. It relieves the parent of having to punish, just to save face. In fact, you can pretend you didn’t hear, even if “mean old thing” (or worse) does happen to get through to your good ear. Then they’ll think they got away with something, and won’t have to resort to drugs or drink to show who’s boss.

Partial deafness leads to exciting new relationships too. There’s the dentist you didn’t hear say, “This is the one to come out, right?” and beauty operators you didn’t hear say, “Now you’re the one who wants a crewcut.” They also include a policeman whose sirens never really got through to me, and (before an operation) a hospital urinalysis technician who, it turned out, didn’t invite me to tea.

Then there are community concerts at Fort Hill, when you’re sitting in a row with your friend on your wrong side. In order to hear her, you have to turn your good ear in her direction, which puts you eyeball-to-eyeball with the person sitting in back of you.

This is unsettling for everybody, and can be solved by dropping your program on the floor so that you have to break eye contact in order to get down and look for it. Unfortunately, the other person often takes the same way out, in which case you may meet each other crawling around on your hands and knees under the seats.

On the other hand, partial deafness can be an ice breaker. Confessed to among strangers, it brings you immediate attention, sympathy, and about 40 more decibels. You also hear about everybody else who’s deaf — 73.29 percent of everybody’s best friends and relatives have some loss of hearing.

It’s exciting being deaf, but I will admit, I was happy when the operation was a success. Even though I still don’t hear as well as I’d like, I want to enjoy it while I can.

You know what they say: “Hear today, gone tomorrow.”

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.

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Maude McDaniel - Living
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