Saturday, December 10, 2011

Deadbeat Fritos (Or the Frustrations and Subtle Benefits of Going Deaf)

I am half deaf. That is to say, roughly fifty percent of my hearing is gone. Yes, I know you can't really be half deaf anymore than you can be half pregnant. The thing is, when I contemplate my hearing loss, I picture a flag at half mast struggling bravely to catch the wind. As my hearing continues to decrease, other metaphors will no doubt leap to mind -- a quarter moon perhaps or one-tenth of an Oreo cookie.

Right now, though, I'm in mourning over the death of half my hearing. I am, in other words, half deaf.

What this means is that in a room of ten or twelve people seated around a table for the purposes of discussion, I might catch about forty percent of what's being said and that's only true if the people in question are articulate, middle-class Americans from the Northeastern or Far Western parts of the country. I am incapable of comprehending anyone with a foreign accent, anyone who mutters, anyone whose voice is unusually nasal or high pitched and virtually anyone under the age of six.

Loss of hearing allows me essentially two choices. I can either pretend to know what the other person is saying and make a wild guess as to how to reply or I can say, "I'm sorry, can you repeat that please?" Consequently people think either that I'm frustratingly needy or just plain bat shit crazy. They may also conclude that I'm a bit simple minded, possibly in the early stages of dementia.
For instance, if I find myself alone in a restaurant without a friend or relative to serve as interpreter and the food server is someone who has never bothered much with articulation, the conversation can go something like this:

FS:   Dyawansouprsala?

Me: I'm sorry?

FS:   Souprsala, whayawan?

Me (taking a wild guess): Yes.

FS:   Ma'am, yacantavboth?

Me:  No thanks, I don't want broth.

Speaking with children yields similar results. My oldest grandson used to be pleasantly (though somewhat loudly) audible. Since becoming a teenager, however, his mode of communication consists of aiming his words in the direction of his collarbone and talking in a low (usually sardonic) monotone.

My youngest grandson, aged six, communicates while jumping up and down, twirling and circling around the room and tugging at various articles of his clothing.

The only one of my grandsons I can understand consistently these days is my middle grandson, age eleven, whom everyone else thinks is too loud.

Children, typically, find hearing-impaired people infuriating. A typical conversation between myself and a child might go something like this:

Child:  C'navsumteet?

Me:    Who's Canasta Pete?

Child:  NO'MUNGRY!

Me:  Nome's in Alaska, not in Hungary.

You are perhaps wondering whether I wear hearing aids. I did briefly but now I do not. You see, the thing about hearing aids is that they are expensive -- $2,000 to $7,000. Medicare does not cover them -- understandably, since being able to hear is clearly a luxury and not essential to one's quality of life.

Before I went into retirement and relative poverty, I did purchase a pair of hearing aids for $3,000. They continually malfunctioned and had to be sent back to the factory over and over again. Finally, I lost one of them after yanking it out of my ear in frustration because it had -- once again -- gone dead. Needless to say, this happened after the warranty had expired.

So much for hearing aids...

The upside of being half deaf is that what you think you've heard people say can be quite funny. For instance, when my son-in-law said, "Can you pass the salt, please?" what I heard was "I'm fasting with a cod piece."

The other day, that same son-in-law (I only have one) was lecturing me about my unwillingness to adapt my driving skills to a more challenging climate. "Are you going to freak every time it snows?" he demanded.

That time I understood him perfectly but pretended not to. "Did you just ask me if I wanted to eat deadbeat Frito's?" I inquired innocently.

1 comment:

  1. You're hilarious, B! And, unfortunately, I identify. I DON'T WANNA BE OLD ENOUGH TO HAVE TO GET HEARING AIDS! But, I think that's one of 2012 goals.