Friday was a senior day at the BA community Center on Main. Many companies wishing to make known to the hundreds of seniors leisurely strolling from one booth to another while passing by others, what they could do to help seniors. Senior living. Nursing homes. Independent living. Hospice care. Medicare info. Yes, and funeral director and cremation services too. Not a fast food booth anywhere to be seen. I stopped and had a conversation with a lady at a hearing aid booth. Told her of my predicament with inadequate ability to hear plainly as I had done for 60 some years previously. Even In situations where background noise was high, I could understand the person sitting across the booth. Now, you put me in a smallish room with cement walls and the voice sound bounces off the walls creating a double tone, an echo of sorts. Now you put me in a restaurant where background noise is part of the atmosphere and it’s hard to understand a distinctive word said to me by a person leaning on my shoulder.
That’s my dilemma, I told her. “Ah, come on in and we’ll test your hearing”.
Sure. I’ve been through four or more of those tests of sitting inside a soundproof booth with earphones listening to a beep. All I must do is listen and press the button when I hear the beep. Wonderful. Ha, to me they’re useless. That’s what is used to program that tiny computer inside the tiny devise that sits behind my ear that has a tiny tube connecting to the microphone inserted into my ear.
Well, anyway, I’ve got an appointment set for the second week of May.
Our ears. What marvelous pieces of equipment they are. Two of them separated by a 7-inch skull. A sound enters the left ear at the same time a slightly different sound enters the right ear. Perhaps even somewhat similar to our two eyes being separated allowing us to view in 3-D. The sounds enter the ear canal sending the waves to that drum that vibrates the waves on to another cavity over microscopic bones to the inner system which interprets the sound sending the info to the brain which let’s me know what you said. Holler out BOOM and the drum vibrates faster than the hairs on my head as I descend the ride on the roller coaster. Softly say my name and I suppose the drum barely vibrates. Is the skin of the drum damaged? Or is it the inner system that interprets what the ears have transmitted damaged? Or, and yes, knowing me, is it the brain that is damaged by that last ride on the roller-coaster, by being hit by a baseball, by the loud noise of a rock band concert, by months of having my ears closely tuned into a radio intensely listening to the dots and dashes of Morse code, or is it the years of operating noisy equipment without ear protection? Hmm?
And our voices, what a distinctive sound we make with our tongues, lips and vocal cords. Our languages; so many there are. Thousands of different languages throughout the world and within each of those are very different dialects. Even here within this smallish town of Broken Arrow, there are many distinctively different dialects of American English, and yes, some too who have not learned enough English words to speak it understandably to a local. There you are in a crowded restaurant of peoples from similar or very distinct backgrounds most all speaking softly, some louder and more forceful unaware of disturbing the next booth of four just wanting to enjoy the fellowship over a nice dinner. The voices of all bouncing off the ceiling, the panels of smooth walls and glass windows, so I must carefully pick which one of those eating places to enjoy a conversation. Rush hour is for them, not me.
Imagine the vocal sounds of a German, a Frenchman, a Russian, a Chinese, a Scandinavian and a south American who have just learned to speak some English incorporating the homeland dialect into the Brooklyn dialect. Would you understand much, if any at all?
This post started with the idea of documenting my own inability to hear well enough to understand the words of someone sitting just a few feet away. My personal conclusion: to all of you with good ears, stay away from those loud in-door concerts, from most of the loud noises that have penetrated this world of secular sensuous arm waving happiness. In a stadium of 70,000 watching a ball game, bring some ear plugs to deafen the noise of the speakers yelling: “Make some Noise.”
Don’t forget nature. Take a walk through the woods. Listen to the waters of a stream, to the bristling of leaves. Tune your ears to hear the calling of a yellow finch, to the sound of butterfly wings, of a hummingbird, and, yes, even the thundering of a lightning strike. Sounds of nature will not hurt your ears but sounds of machinery will.