I was in a vain denial.
Then I realized that most of our dinner conversations consisted of me saying, “What?”
And then my pretense backfired when deafly nodding with a big grin to a friend’s words, only to discover that she was talking about the sickness of someone.
Perhaps the final straw was reading that older people with moderate to severe hearing loss are three to five times more likely to suffer dementia.
I don’t need my skis waxed for that approaching slope.
Finally, I decided to bite the bullet and face the music I could no longer hear.
I had an audiological exam, which I failed miserably — another blow to a withering ego.
Only then did I begin to understand the wondrous mix of physics, biology and neurology that is hearing.
The curiously shaped human ear captures sound vibrations and transforms them into nerve impulses, which the brain receives as sounds and translates into concepts and images.
A young child can detect audible sound on the range of 20 to 20,000 hertz.
It’s not like the pigeon, whose low frequency sensitivity can detect a distant storm or earthquake.
It is not the high-frequency hearing of certain marine mammals that rely on echolocation in the murky deep.
But it is more than enough for our needs.
And as we age, the range diminishes to 1,000-4,000 hertz, but still capable of navigating our world — able to catch the little sounds, the opening lines to every story we hear or imagine.
I was able to get that back, to once again enjoy the euphony that makes life marvelous.
At first, the world was a noisy place. Engines roared, pipes groaned, and compressors droned.
But, like living close to a highway, your brain eventually ignores the common clamor. And once mine adjusted, the real miracle took place.
I could hear the flutter of a bird’s wing, the rustle of a squirrel along a leafy branch, and the laughter of kids playing up the street.
I could hear the soft giggle of my little granddaughter’s amusement.
I could hear the daily whispers of love.
If you have your hearing, bend a knee in gratitude. If you don’t, use the gifts of our modern world to get it back.
Helen Keller said: “Blindness separates us from things. Deafness separates us from people.”
I find the latter part of that true, but troubling.
Now that I can hear, I’ll need to learn to listen.