Can You Hear Me Now??

In a “normal” household, Dads tell their kids to turn their music down. We were always asking our Dad to turn the volume down…

Growing up in a household where one parent was partially deaf was fun and never, ever boring! We didn’t have to learn sign language, because Dad could always hear out of one ear since babyhood and he has learned to read lips well. But there were plenty of instances of “What?” and near shouting and always asking “Can you turn that down just a little bit? It’s too loud!!”…from the kids.

The TV volume was always at or near the highest possible decibel. Now, I don’t know about you, but this makes it so that surround sound is a very literal thing. We kids never pined for extra speakers, like some of our friends had. If we had grown up with the latest flatscreen, High-def TVs, we could have possibly given the local theaters a run for their money. But as it was, our TVs growing up still had tubes. However, even with the old-style television sets, our movie watching was a completely immersive experience.

On the flip side, when you are in a welding shop or other industrial setting, established hearing loss is actually not an entirely bad thing. Not that we encourage it at all – protect your hearing!! You will need it. But for the seasoned pros, they know that pieces of pipe and angle clanging to the floor, saws biting into metal, grinders whining, the crackle of welding, the whir of the welder…all of these things can take their toll. If you enter the shop with perfect hearing, you can probably expect to leave with it taken down a notch or two. This is why we advocate for good ear protection.

It’s not just in the shop, though. Have you ever been in close proximity to a welding truck that is running? Depending on the age of the machine and whether it drinks unleaded or diesel, one can lose a bit of hearing there, too. I would venture a guess that very few welders and metal fabricators actually have top notch hearing. And if they do, they are like 18 or 20 years old and just getting their toes wet.

Of course, this age range is also the prime time for loud concerts, where you walk away dazed and confused because your friend happened to want to be closer to the stage (which was of course closer to the speakers) and you aren’t sure if you will ever hear anything but ringing again…

Anyway, back to the adventures of growing up with a parent with partial deafness. Growing up, we never really thought anything of it. When we had company come over, we placed them at the table on the side of my Dad’s good ear, so he could hear them better. And we always explained to them that he had hearing in only one ear, which they were more than happy to accommodate. For phone conversations, fortunately Dad has pretty good hearing. Talking to customers on the phone or where he could read their lips was never too big of an issue. And now there is texting, which is ever so convenient when the ability to hear well is compromised. 

As I got a little older and we would go shopping, I would sometimes realize that store employees would think Dad was ignoring them. He would be at a counter looking down at the merchandise, and they would be talking to him – on the side where his bad ear is. And because he reads lips, if he’s not looking at you and you aren’t talking distinctly or loudly enough, he just won’t hear a word! I took to explaining to them that he was partially deaf so they wouldn’t feel like he was being rude. He is one of the nicest customers to deal with and a very gregarious guy, so if he was a regular, that usually wasn’t a problem.

Now that many people are wearing masks, this has become a bit of challenge. Dad had to go to the doctor’s office recently and the nurses and doctor were wearing masks. Being one who relies on seeing someone’s mouth when they talk, this was difficult for him. He caught part of what was said, but not all of it.

At some point, I realized that I probably wouldn’t have great hearing myself unless I started protecting my ears more. I started wearing ear protection more regularly when working at the shop. When I moved out and got my own apartment, I found that I liked listening to the TV below 10 decibels when there were no other ambient noises. I discovered the pleasure of watching TV & movies at a much lower volume. That’s right, folks – make those ear drums work for it!!

And lest I forget to mention it, we eventually found a happy alternative for when we watched movies all together…subtitles! What an ingenious little thing subtitles are!! With subtitles, we can keep the volume to a non-damaging level. He still has a little trouble hearing everything, but he can read it if he can’t hear it. If he watches something alone, the volume is up as high as it will go for the full experience 😊 It isn’t his fault, really. He was born that way. Also, new and improved hearing aids have helped some.

He learned to talk normally as a child, since he did have some natural hearing. March of Dimes helped provide him with hearing aids in his teen years. He also was fortunate to have had a speech therapist as a child. God bless speech therapists!

When he was 8, he was one of the first children to have tubes put in his ears – well, just his right ear. At that point in time, this was still an experimental procedure. The doctors couldn’t guarantee it would work, let alone stay in. His ear drained profusely for the next few days. A week later, the doctor checked his ears and there was a hole in the drum, but no tube. It had fallen out! Guess that’s why they call it experimental, right?

When Dad was 17, he noticed he was having more problems with his hearing. He couldn’t hear much at all out of his good ear. He went to the ear doc and was informed that his ear drum was almost completely gone. Not only that, but an infection had eaten away most of his inner ear. Without a drastic surgery, he would soon have zero hearing – out of the only ear that actually worked.

He had a mastoidectomy, in addition to the doctors rebuilding his inner ear with tiny pieces of bone carved into inner ear bone shapes and a new ear drum made out of skin.

Now the real test came…did it work?

After the surgery, he completely lost all of his hearing for several months. It seemed that this attempt to fix his inner ear had failed.

This was around the same time he had met and fallen in love with his future wife (my Mom!), who attended youth group. Even though he couldn’t hear what was being said at youth group, he still attended (mostly to make sure that no other guys tried to take his girl) and one day, someone gave him a Bible and pointed him to the book of John, chapter 1. He started reading it during the meetings and he decided to give his life to Jesus.

After his salvation experience, Dad experienced a sort of miracle with his hearing. By this time his youngest brother had also moved to Deer Lodge. They had a bunk bed…the youngest brother, Mark, slept on the top bunk and Dad slept on the bottom bunk. Whenever Mark would wake up in the morning and hop down, he would pop Dad on the chest with his fist to wake him up (that served as his alarm clock, since Dad still didn’t have hearing post-surgery). Mark then left for some months.

It was after he had left that one morning, Dad said he felt someone pound his chest the same way Mark used to, but when he woke up, he remembered that Mark was gone. Thinking it had been someone else, he looked around, but no one was there. But the miraculous part was that he could hear again! And hears to this day out of that ear, with the help of a hearing aid.

So, I guess in a way, we are all thankful for the loud TV and Dad is especially thankful for it. It means his ear is still working as it should. We are truly grateful for both that and for him.


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