The title refers to a name given by a child to her hearing aids. An article about one 4 year old’s transformation upon being able to hear clearly connected with me on several levels. It was a heartwarming holiday story. I am experiencing hearing loss. The story describes how the parents defined their daughter before they knew she was not hearing normally and how they came to understand and experience her differently. All this from one story. Let’s see if I can sort this out.
The story about Angeliki appears in today’s Chicago Tribune in the Perspective section. It is a touching story told by the girl’s mom. Two years to diagnose. High frequency hearing loss in both ears. No discernible cause. An entire article could have been written on frustration with the medical community or the pain of the lost years — half of a lifetime for a 4 year old and at a critical time in her development. Instead the story focused on the positive. On how her and their lives changed for the better. This story could have appeared at any time at yet it is in the Sunday edition during the beginning of the winter holiday season. I suspect that this is due to its uplifting message. Just right for now.
Another angle. I have been hearing progressively less for 3 years now. The incremental changes have been subtle but overall it’s noticeable. While the impact is very different on me at age 50 something than to a child who did not hear well to begin, I relate to her story.
This affliction is annoying for both speaker and attempted listenee. It particularly drives my teenage son to distraction. He jumps from modest volume to a scream the moment I ask him to repeat despite my pleas to just take it up one notch. I suspect that he interprets this as not listening as opposed to not hearing. With my wife it can become a joke when I need 3-4 reps of the same words but too often I mishear instead of not hear and I can blow up at something that was not ever said. With the TV or at work I do the best I can and have learned to live without knowing exactly what is being said around me. The worst is in a crowded room or anywhere with background noise. A word of advice. If you are talking to me in person please look straight at me unless you do not want me to feel the sting of your rapier wit or hear the astuteness of your musings. A second word of advice. This hearing thing is one of my few idiosyncrasies that I am unwilling to laugh about. (There is an implied threat buried in that last sentence. Beware.)
Many of us, if not most, begin to put labels on people we meet as we accumulate information. Most of the information is limited to behaviors at first. Words, the tone they are spoken in, the specific and very limited context we are in at that moment all begin to shape our judgements. Labels get affixed quickly. Nice, mean, intelligent, idiot, harmless, menacing, kind, fair, authoritative, autocratic, boring, fascinating, etc. These labels can get hard coded relatively quickly based on limited observations. Labels become our way of thinking about and interpreting the person.
Angeliki’s mom had labels for her daughter. Here is how Angeliki’s mom describes her. “For one thing, Angeliki had the loudest voice of any child I had ever known. Nevertheless, she didn’t talk much. She was a little slower to speak than other kids, and what she did say was difficult to comprehend. Although Angeliki was gregarious and outgoing, socially she struggled because she couldn’t seem to interact well in a group.” “Most of all, she was an extremely defiant, independent little girl. I referred to this affectionately as her “screw-you” attitude toward life: She would not be moved by any persuasion; she responded with the taciturnity of a boulder to basic requests; and with a steely-eyed gaze and expressionless silence, she would flatly refuse to do what I asked.” Well it turned out that much of her defiance, her screw you attitude and her social struggles were the result of her not hearing much of what was being said.
Lack of hearing is an obvious trait. Once we know it exists. It changes how we interact with a person, again, once we know. We tend to be more understanding. The labels change. Unfortunately, most reasons behind why a person is what he/she is, or even is at a moment in time, are hidden from us. We rarely take the time or spend the energy to find out. In the spirit of 48Facets, I believe that most of us are more than we appear. I also believe that in most cases there is substantial reward for finding out what lies beneath the surface.
Yet to quote that great paragon of philosophical deliberation, Grey’s Anatomy,
“Sometimes a jerk is just a jerk.” (Lexie Grey, 11/22/2007)
All this from one article.