Here’s a bit of nonsensical flash entitled, “Dementia on Deaf Ears” to mull over on this lovely Friday that is more spring than I’ve seen in many a moon.
The more years slopped onto my bones, the more I’m made aware that death is an untimely beast. As is quality of life. Yet, I did not expect to encounter talks of either on a quick trip to an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialist this morn.
Insert pun: I left the ENT with more than just an earful of advice and hearing aid pamphlets.
Insert backstory: Prior to delving into my visit and vivid reaction, some may need an explanation as to why I’d ventured to the ENT, for I try to avoid referencing my borderline deaf ear. It’s just not significant, especially when folks ’round me carry much heftier wounds in their day-to-day of both the internal and the external variety. In addition, my glass-full frame of mind finds the lack of hearing on one side of my body most convenient. Below are a few of these instances:
- When napping, I lay my “good ear” down and drift off without rousing at the slightest sound (I.E. best road trip companion! Serious. I can sleep any old where.).
- When conversing with friends, I rewrite dialogue that I’ve only heard wee excerpts from. Most of the time, my version is too outlandish and subsequently belongs in some manuscript I’m currently creating. Now, this can get awkward in a one-to-one conversation, or when I’m laughing aloud while everyone else in the conversation is quite stone-faced serious.
- When taking a stroll with my lover, I ensure to be on his right side to hear his pillow speak. My friends are familiar with me snaking ’round to the proper side; they even encircle themselves if we’ve walked together often enough–a true sign our friendship is out of that awkward stage and onto bigger, more important things.
- When wearing headphones, I still insert both earbuds so that people don’t see one out as an invitation to converse. My apologies, but I’m not advanced enough to be able to multi-task while pounding pavement. If ever an earbud dies, they are still worthy to wear in my book!
- When growing up, I could pretend I didn’t hear my mother’s requests of my time, my attention. What a bonnie brat I was (okay, I may still do this on occasion).
Apart from having surgeries in my youth and rendering me incapable of singing on tune, my hearing loss has been a fairly positive attribute. Until this morning. After fighting off an ongoing ear infection in my lame ear, after seeing my primary physician more often than I see my grandmother, I trudged up the winding sidewalk leading to my ENT’s office. Alas, he was called out of office, on emergency. In lieu of a complete reschedule, I was directed down a long winding corridor to an audiologist of sorts. She presented me with graph after graph, black on white, issuing mouth-words regarding hearing aids, tests, fancy devices. Before I can say, “Sal-you-ta-tions” I’m in a booth, sweaty palms encasing a black button I’m to push when hearing a beep among a cacophony of sounds.
Mind you, tests of any form trigger my sweat glands, and I begin to fidget atop this little stool almost forgetting my sole purpose of listening for beeps. Who can think of beeps when the fear of sweating through a vintage white polka-dotted blouse is all too palpable? Ah, I digress.
The audiologist said, “Tests are linking early onset dementia and Alzheimer’s to not wearing proper hearing aids…something-something…would you leave a broken arm to mend itself?” But all I gather is money. Money talks. Hearing aids listen. And this song is so old, they got the pop version, the acoustic version, the live version on download. In high school, I wore a hearing aid for a spell. A radio in my ears, it was. I was my own DJ, spinning the wee knob to turn down the lunch trays clammering against side tables, tuning into the teacher’s black matte heels on white floors, scuff marks offering a trail back to the teacher’s lounge. The audiologist doesn’t hear me when I say I’m not interested. She talks over my small voice, saying the aids have improved over the years. Her voice is buttery, but too excited as she smears her charming stories of patients crying when they put the hearing aid in for the first time. Part medic/part saleswoman, she keeps up the chatter until she circles back ’round to the likelihood of me buddy-ing up to dementia if I don’t take care of my ears.
When did my ears become the rose bush in our backyard? For they require trimming and weeding and grow bigger–always where I don’t want them to. The little thing refuses to adhere to the lattice, whittled precisely for this purpose. No, I thought, a hearing aid is not for me. I start to nod in hopes that she will rise, which will allow me to rise out of the little sound-box. I didn’t sign up for this, I thought, feeling like I may already have dementia in the few moments I’ve spent with the audiologist.
As a writer, one tends to lose themselves in stories. And sometimes one doesn’t have any control over this and sometimes it’s all a writer wants is to be lost in another story. Engulfed in run-on after run-on until the muse is done with you. I wonder if creating my own stories instead of trying to listen as hard as I might to all of the people and all of their stories is my own version of dementia? For these little narratives I’ve created envelope me, morphing reality at times. They could consume me entirely if I let them.
Would it be so bad to fit yourself into the dialogue of your choosing? This all escapes me, really. Alas, reality falls on deaf ears again.