by Andrea Savee
Tomorrow, my brain will be both bombarded and caressed and sections that have been asleep for forty-three years will wake up. My perception of the world, and maybe myself in it, will change, without me taking a drug, staring at a wall for a week, or having a near death experience.
I feel giddy and special. Like it’s the night before the biggest birthday party of my life. A party with one whopping $5600 gift to myself of Danish technology: hearing aids.
My childhood ears were ravaged by chronic infections. Surgical and pharmaceutical interventions–a steady dose of prescription strength Sudafed and Actifed, tonsil and adenoidectomies, drainage tubes, and finally a tympanoplasty — couldn’t prevent severe damage to the ossicular chain, that trio of articulating bones we learned about in elementary school: the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. By age nine, I’d lost considerable hearing in my right ear and was nearly deaf in my left.
Somehow, I’ve spent four decades never even considering hearing aids or the surgery that I’ve learned could restore my hearing to normal. Seeming to naturally embody the phrase It is what it is, I adjusted. In school, I sat up front. In work and play, I reflexively positioned myself to the left of someone I wanted to hear. I watched the mouth of the person speaking more than I did their eyes.
Tomorrow, I’ll immerse myself in a surround sound scenario that will reportedly rock my world as the brain scrambles to sort it all out. Alicia, the audiologist, warns me that as the upper registers of my hearing range flood with information, I may be distressed by the simplest sounds of living. Dishes clanking. Keys jangling. Freddie Mercury.
But there will be soothing sounds, too, as the lower registers open up and round things out. The hooting desert owl. Eggs boiling in the covered pot. The cat purring from the far end of the couch. I can hardly wait for someone to whisper in my ear.
And being buttressed on both sides now by the sounds of the world will bring clarity. No more mistaking the dribbling hose for chirping birds. The whirring motor several lawns away for bees humming in the trees overhead.
After my initial workup, the otologist asked me with a softened voice how I’ve managed all my life. I was touched by her tenderness. She asked if I’d grown up in a small town without access to good medical care. I hadn’t. In fact, my dad was a doctor. What ifs swirled around the exam room and around the question of why I hadn’t been treated with antibiotics. My later Google search suggests that whether and when to treat children with antibiotics is still the judgment call my parents made back in the 60s.
The child who lost access to half her world when the left side dropped away doesn’t need what ifs. She just needs hearing aids. The ReSound Alera 961 to be precise. I like the sound of that.
Andrea lives in California with her Queen-loving husband, and their cat, Chico.