RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — A miraculous thing happened to me as I walked toward my aging car. Birds were singing. Lots of them.
Different species. Different calls. It was a beautiful symphony – something I hadn’t heard in many years. Actually, perhaps for the first time. I can’t describe how I felt. I stopped walking, stunned by the beautiful music of God’s wonderful creatures.
You see, I have hereditary hearing loss. Profound hearing loss. But new hearing aids have restored a dimension to my life that I had not realized I had lost. Technology can be wonderful.
Last year, I acquired a hearing aid for my left ear after I could no longer bear wearing special headsets to listen to TV, movies, interviews and staff meetings. My wife, Lynda, had been driven deaf herself by the loud TV, radio and stereo.
But since most health insurance plans don’t cover hearing aids, I wasn’t able to even buy one – and it’s not top-of-the-line – until I was able to put some money into a medical savings account.
From the moment I put the hearing aid in my left ear, which was slightly better than my right, the world of sound was suddenly new to me. The sounds of silence became the sounds of music.
Lynda couldn’t believe the transformation. Mimicking the Verizon commercials, she followed me around the house whispering:
“Can you hear me now?”
Yes, I could.
At the Triangle Town Center Mall, I heard background music in the Barnes & Noble store for the first time.
“Have we always had ‘elevator music’ here?” I asked. My incredulous co-workers laughed.
I soon learned I was better off NOT hearing most of the music selections.
However, when I added the hearing aid in my right ear – which basically was dead – new waves of sound assaulted me. Only then did I notice how rude people are when it comes to coughing, sneezing and making other noises that were once considered impolite but are now common.
The background noise still can leave my senses overloaded, my head aching.
I constantly lift a finger to an ear, adjusting sound levels. That certainly draws curious glances from people, some of whom must think I’m doing something rude. I’m not. I’m either dialing up or down.
But the miracle of truly hearing suddenly struck me when I heard the birds signing. And spring hasn’t even arrived yet. What wonderful noise awaits when all the birds are making their joyful noise as the weather warms.
Still, my hearing is far from perfect. Even with these new devices, I have only 80 percent of hearing in my right ear and 88 percent in my left.
Even as a child, I had difficulty hearing. I watch movies with closed captioning (even with my hearing aids now because I can’t quite decipher many words) and am constantly amazed by how often I finally understand dialogue that had long baffled me.
To watch John Wayne and Gregory Peck movies, plus "Zulu," "Ben Hur," "Pork Chop Hill," "Big" and "The Magnificent Seven" with closed captions and with true hearing has made a truly new entertainment experience.
My brother-in-law (husband of my older sister) still reminds me that 50 years ago, I ran around singing a song “yellow pocka dot blinmini.” It really was “yellow polka-dot bikini.”
Now I know why.
Don’t take your hearing for granted. It’s an ability to be savored every day, especially when the birds are singing.