What Did You Say?

As I walked into the barre studio with a yoga mat, five-pound weights, three-pound weights, yoga block, yoga mat towel, water and a sweat towel in hand, Rita, the instructor, was fiddling with her iphone and the speaker dock.

She turned to me apologetically, and said, ” I’m so sorry for that piercing sound, I can’t get it to stop.”

“I don’t hear a piercing sound,” I said innocently.

She asked the next person who entered the room, ” Do you hear that high pitch sound?”

“Yes.” That was followed by several more people who said “yes.”  Everyone but me could here the high frequency piercing sound.

It was my Ah-Ha moment.   All I could visualize was that damn tree falling in the woods.

Rita wasn’t able to adjust the sound.  Apologizing,  she asked if everyone preferred to do the class without music that day. They voted for music, even with the high frequency sound. In my barre class, the average age must be 32. I am the anomaly.

While I happily did my pliés and relevés, the rest of the twenty and thirty- somethings in the barre class endured that omnipresent high frequency sound throughout the entire 55-minute class.

I really wanted to suffer with the rest of them. Because to not, meant a loss I am not quite ready to deal with,yet.

My immediate reaction? As I walked home from class, I did what anyone who is concerned they are losing their hearing would do. I turned down the volume on my iphone and the book I was listening to on Audible.

My size 12 Kitschy Kitschy Boom Boom Liz from John Fluevog. So comfortable and very quite on wood floors.

My size 12 Kitschy Kitschy Boom Boom Liz from John Fluevog. So comfortable and very quite on wood floors.

Hah! I could still hear it just fine at the lower volume – until I got to the bridge and a truck passed me. Between the truck’s natural volume and the extraneous rattling it causes traveling over a bridge, I needed to adjust the volume back to the former level.

Once I got home, I made a mad dash to visit my constant companion and good friend Google. Google shared that I could take an online test to see if I had any hearing loss.

No big surprise. The test confirmed what I already had figured out. I can’t hear high frequency sounds worth diddly.

I was buoyed, however, to learn there seems to be an increase in this particular hearing loss in teenagers.  Having a teenage-centric affliction feels better than having  an old person-centric condition.

Now, I know this is completely irrational. My entire attitude about aging is  irrational. That’s one of the reasons for this blog — to figure out how to get old when you don’t want to be old.

Whether teenagers can hear high pitch sounds or not, doesn’t change the fact that I don’t hear them. And I’m not a teenager. I’m 63 years old.

I definitely do not want to be an old person who is a denier. I don’t want to be the person  who refuses to get hearing aids and insists that everyone else talk louder, talk slower, repeat sentences, and then do the cycle all over again,  just because they don’t think their diminished auditory perception  is a problem.

It’s a problem. It’s annoying. It’s exhausting. It’s unnecessary.

My  88-year-old mother  is now profoundly deaf in one ear.  Ask her a question and her go-to  answer is, “Wait, I have to get close so I can hear.”  You wait. She walks over to you very, very slowly.

You repeat your question. Loudly. Because even when she is invading your space, she still needs amplified sound. It takes so much energy to ask one question that it’s rare for the conversation to go beyond the initial inquiry.

This happens every single time you want to say anything to her. Either you walk right up to her to talk or wait til she walks over to you. (I let her get up and walk to me because it forces her out of the chair that she occupies 18 hours a day.)

It’s been that way for five years. She’s had her hearing tested. She knows she can’t hear.  She just doesn’t care.

That is the scary part – living a life of self-inflicted isolation.  What is life like when you don’t care any more if you can’t hear the rest of the world? When you don’t care whether you can go to the movies, restaurants, or theater because you can’t hear, can’t navigate the steps, can’t see well enough?

What does it say about your life when you’d rather listen to the sounds of silence than have a conversation with anyone, about anything?

It is unimaginable to me.  And yet, I haven’t boogied over to the audiologist to test  hearing. Evidently, I’m not alone. Research shows many boomers don’t want to get hearing aids because they associate it with being old.  The same article says two Twin Cities manufacturers are working with iPhone to create bluetooth hearing aids that work with the iPhone. Guess there will be an app for that

I also know I’m not quite ready to make that appointment. My rationale? I rarely have to ask people to  repeat what they are saying- even in a noisy restaurant. The volume for my headsets on my iPhone are closer to the half mark than full blast. And, I can still her my barre instructor –most of  the time giving instructions over the amplified music  — although I wouldn’t object if they started using microphones, just sayin’.

Turning to Rutledge, she said, ” Growing old is not for most people. It’s too trying. One daren’t eat this or do that, or even bend over to smell the garden flowers, for fear one’s back won’t straighten up again.

A Fearsome Doubt by Charles Todd (It’s the sixth book in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series)

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