Listen to what the man said

I can’t speak for all baby boomers, but many, many of us grew up with parental and other authoritarian voices ordering “turn that music down! You’ll damage your hearing!”

We probably should have listened to what the man said.

I first noticed the chirping three or four months ago – only sometimes, only in very quiet times and not enough to interfere with my life (yet, and I hope it stays that way). I hope that it’s stress-induced and will go away altogether but also recognize that that’s dreaming.

Especially after reading Shouting Won’t Help: Why I – and 50 Million Other Americans – Can’t Hear You, a reported memoir by former journalist (the New York Times, the NYT Magazine, The New Yorker) Katherine BoutonShoutingWon'tHelp

I can’t remember where I heard about it, but the introductory excerpt on Amazon.com hooked me so hard I hit the pre-order button (adding in Joan Osborne’s Bring It On Home CD to qualify for free shipping – I can’t help myself). JoanOsborneThe The

The book was released Feb. 19 and both arrived few days later.

My initial reasoning was that in addition to being fascinating reading,  the book would help me understand my husband’s hearing loss and his reluctance to wear the hearing aid he wouldn’t even get until he turned 60. There’s no shame in it, I’d callously thought – he spent too much time around loud machinery without hearing protection in his younger years and tinnitus runs in his family, in each direction for generations. No big deal.

Bouton begs to differ and frankly writes about the anguish associated with years of trying to hide her hearing loss.

After finishing the book a few minutes ago on my noisy treadmill, the crickets are going to town in my quiet kitchen, and I realize the information will be helpful in more ways than I’d imagined.

It’s really a must-read for anyone who loves or spends time around someone with hearing loss or deafness – as well as anyone who has played fast and loose with her hearing. The facts and statistics may startle you in places, but it’s an upbeat, can’t-put-it-down book.

I knew my hearing was damaged from five years of teaching at Central High School. The halls are horribly loud, and the security guards’ whistles are (literally) deafening. One of my newspaper staff students did a science fair project on just that – he was a doctor’s son and brought a decibel meter to school. Exact details escape me years later, but the whistles definitely hit the permanent-damage-inducing level if blown directly into the meter.

Or into an ear, which happened to me once in the hall outside my room. A female security guard about my height stood directly behind me and blew her whistle full blast into my ear – I assume she thought I was a student. I couldn’t hear anything for a few minutes and couldn’t hear out of the receiving ear for hours. I could visualize my little inner-ear hairs flattening out in self-defense.

My ears, despite my predilection for loud music, have always been sensitive. Music can be painful, especially if I don’t like it. I loved Humble Pie in my teens – had two of their albums (and at least one on CD now) – but I walked out of their concert at Barton Coliseum because they were so loud my ears felt as if they were bleeding.

A year or two later I had a close encounter with a firecracker with a short fuse that went off in my hand next to my ear. Don’t ask.

After reading Bouton’s book, I find myself thinking about all the reckless listening I’ve done.

But I won’t stop playing music loudly. Just maybe not as loud.

When Pam and I were adolescents, we discussed just about every potentiality you can imagine. “If you had to go deaf or blind, which would you choose?” was one of them. I always chose to keep my hearing – hard choice, but I couldn’t imagine life without music or the voices of my (then unborn, of course) children and grandchildren.

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Speaking of children and grandchildren, my baby girl is 33 today. Her baby girl is smitten with two maternity tops I made for her mother and delivered yesterday (not birthday presents – they were just way delayed by circumstances of late). Sylvie stroked them over and over jabbered on and on about them. Beyond cute.

Happy birthday, Liz. Love you.

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