Surprises

Last weekend we had a lovely surprise visit from Son#3, DIL#3, and Son#5 ... which in turn led to some lovely family get-togethers. It seems like forever since we were all together so it was a wonderful surprise. (And I had to do a surprise shop since there wasn't enough food in the house for that many people.)

Yesterday I had another surprise. But first, let's go back in time ... back to when this blogger was a model teen (well, that's how I remember it).

At fourteen years of age I was diagnosed with hearing loss in my left ear. At the time it was a relief. That's why I had trouble learning words as a child; that's why I struggle to hear in group situations; that's why I can't pick out individual instruments when listening to orchestral music; that's why I have so much difficulty learning a spoken language (I did fine at Latin). I'm not stupid after all.

At the time I was told several things: the hearing loss was in my left ear and only at some frequencies; I would have no difficulty hearing normal speech; it was permanent and a result of having had meningitis at age two and a half; and nothing could be done.

I was okay with all that. I'd learnt to adjust to this hearing loss over time (and I still do things that I realise normal-hearing people don't do) and to compensate in many ways. The hearing loss was to me a personal and private reminder that God had His Hand on my life. I should've died from that illness. My parents were told I would. When I survived, my parents were told I would be severely brain damaged. I was sick a long, long time. So to survive with only (what I thought) minimal hearing loss was a miracle.

I still believe it was a miracle.

But yesterday I had my first audiologist appointment in over 35 years and I learnt a few things: my hearing loss is permanent and likely the result of meningitis (nothing unexpected there); I have moderate to severe loss in my left ear and mild to moderate in my right (I never had any reason to believe that I had anything but "normal" hearing in my right ear); I can hear bass tones such as men's voices but not treble tones such as women's or children's voices (so I can hear normal speech as long as it's a male speaking); and hearing aids could make a big difference.

Please repeat that.

Hearing aids could make a big difference.

After believing for thirty odd years that nothing could assist my hearing, only to be told otherwise, it requires some mental gymnastics to come to terms with the new understanding of me. I'm not sure I'm processing it very well.

Which is ridiculous. One would think that given the opportunity to improve one's hearing one would jump at it.

Or would they?

Because I have heard a new born baby cry. I have heard each of my children say "Mama". I have sat and enjoyed music. I can hear the birds right outside my window as I type this. I've woken when a child has cried in the night. I've learnt to hear in most situations. I don't particularly feel as if I've been disadvantaged.

Would hearing aids give me greater clarity, greater enjoyment? Or would background and other noises increase? Would it be an improved quality of life or not?

And if I chose to wear hearing aids (which given the type suggested and the fact that I almost always wear my hair up, would be visible), would people perceive me differently?

And there's the rub. At present I can decide who I tell of this unique aspect of me, but hearing aids would announce it to all and sundry.

And yet, while I'm trying to process all this, while I'm struggling with my altered perception of who I am, I can't help but feel thankful.

Thankful that I'm alive. Thankful that my diagnosis came in my teen years and not earlier because had it been earlier my early language learning difficulties would not have been put down to genetics or laziness and I wouldn't have been so strongly encouraged to speak clearly and to work at getting all those sounds right. I am thankful for a diagnosis that explained why I couldn't differentiate some sounds and helped me realise I wasn't stupid. I'm thankful that it's not genetic. I'm thankful that it is the only complication from an awful, awful disease that claimed many lives and left others in wheelchairs or with severe brain damage. I'm thankful that I have this sign of God's Hand on my life and His eternal love. And I'm thankful that something can be done, even if I choose not to do it.

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