Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Nothing, in my experience, comes close to equaling hearing loss for removing one from the mainstream. No matter how much money you spend on hearing aids, hearing loss, in most cases, is progressive. The electronic hardware can only amplify the frequencies you can hear. The more frequencies you loose the less effective hearing aids become no matter how expensive they are, or what your audiologist tells you.

I began wearing hearing aids fifteen years ago and for a few years felt that with the moderate loss I was experiencing I was still able to participate at a high level in an active social experience, which included listening to music with genuine appreciation. As time moved on, my disability became more profound and I had to move from tiny units completely within the ear canal to more powerful over the ear units with all kinds of amplification and multiple channels for amplifying selected bands of frequencies.

It was at that time that I noticed a distinct change in the level and quality of my understanding. Although I was hearing the sounds I was not hearing the subtile sibilant and explosive frequencies - like the S's and K's - which are essential for understanding words, specially if they have a common "vowel" sound, such as corn, horn, born, torn and so on. Attempts to amplify just the frequencies I needed seemed to help at first but then as my disability increased it did not matter how much specific amplification was applied, I simply was not hearing certain frequencies. Those frequencies had just dropped out of my aural repertoire.

Not long after that realization, I discovered that music no longer sounded like my memory demanded. I spent years involved in choral music and listening to all kinds of music. I also appreciated much of the popular genre from the 60's and 70's. Recently we had a roof replaced and the man doing the work had his radio blasting out what sounded to me like a metal garbage can being dragged beneath a car. Then I heard a familiar beat and realized it was John Fogerty doing his signature Proud Mary, to which I had danced and listened for hours a few years ago. The parts of the audio spectrum that are required to identify music, much less to appreciate it, were gone. It was one of the saddest moments in my life.

In a more practical sense, this has resulted in my being literally on the edge of life. Marginalized. I suppose a certain amount of marginalization goes along with being an octogenarian. Old people are not, as a rule movers and shakers, or even chosen to be on someone's softball team. However, not being able to actively participate in a conversation including more than three people because of the practical inability to understand what is being said is distressing. It gets tiresome saying, "What did you say? Will you say that again slowly and articulate clearly, please?", every other sentence. What happens is that I spend the evening simply not knowing what was being said. I find it impossible not to feel just a tad left out. You think I am feeling a bit sorry for myself? Goddamn right I am. But not that paralyzing locked down self pitying thing. I do not intend to drop out. I might become choosy in my social exercises but I'll be there.

Why should I care? Here's why. Conversation to me is one of the most exciting features of being a human being. I thrive on it. It is still possible on a one to one basis and sometimes with a few more but it must be conducted in a quiet setting. And, my partners must not mumble, talk to their armpits or slur their words and phrases.

Unfortunately, elocution, the skill of clear and expressive speech, especially of distinct pronunciation and articulation, is simply not valued anymore. If everyone sounded like Walter Cronkite, there wouldn't be a problem. Well, that may be a slight oversimplification, but you take my point.

I am clear that this is my personal problem, but if I want to be understood, it is my responsibility to speak clearly. I was taught to do that in high school. At some point such training became unimportant in the modern curriculum.

The bottom line is that I want to be included. Everybody does. However, at the rate things are going, I may be lucky just to be able to hear the dinner bell. I really don't want to miss dinner.

Please - Ring it loudly, ring it long.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dear Pal . . .

Dear Pal

Thanks for your recent note. I really enjoyed reading it - several times, if you can believe that. It's always good to hear from an old friend. I have so few friends who actually write letters anymore. I can tall you that I treasure each one. I will say a special thanks for typing it. As I recall, your handwriting resembled something it would take a board certified Egyptologist to decipher. OK, OK, I know even that would not help my scribble.

I have to thank my first wife - you remember her. She was in the class ahead of us. She was a champion typist. She gave me a lesson of sorts and after some years of trying and then the advent of the computer I finally am more comfortable at the keyboard than with pen and ink. I never thought I'd be saying that.

It's funny how when I think of you, I seem to easily slip into that old comfortable memory mode - not that squishy nostalgia mind lock thing, but, well we do go back a long way - do we not?

It's probably something like a self-fulling prophesy, I suppose. The older I get the more I value someone's friendship who remembers the same things that I do.

I just thought: I am sure you remember when it was in vogue to say something like, "Do you remember what you were doing when you got the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor?" Now, try this on: do you remember when it was that you became aware that you had not heard that for the past 20 years? Hell, it might have been longer than that for me.

Anyway, you mentioned Mary Jane. Yes I remember her well. I kind of had eyes for her in High School, but never made a move. I think I was afraid of rejection. Always been an issue with me. I later found out that she said "yes" more than a little, and I probably knew that at some level and that was the real root of my fears. HA!

I am so sorry to hear that she died. I remember in High School I always thought she had one of the finest rear ends around. Her cheerleading skills were worth the price of a game ticket. I think she married that big All State guard - what was his name? I know he died some years ago. Heart attack at work. Did she remarry? I don't have any information about that. No reason I should, I suppose.

Except for you, Tyrus and sometimes J-Boy, I never hear any news from down there. Moving away early on kind of severs the connections.

I'm glad to hear that you and Rosalie are still playing golf. I'd like to think I could still do that but my shoulders would not survive three holes, I'm afraid. I love to watch the game. I had a half set of clubs about 40 years ago and a friend borrowed them for another lefty to use and I never saw them again. Probably a blessing considering what it costs to play these days.

If I remember rightly, you actually live on a golf course? That must be nice. But I don't know how I'd like that unless there were other benefits. Like a saloon near by. Maybe a pool and a work out room.

We do some hiking and now and then still get into our kayaks. But my treadmill and bicycle keep my legs moving year around. I'm afraid to stop. We have some good trails near here and get out on them as much as possible. The roads have no shoulders so that is rather dangerous with those Red Neck pick-up cowboys flying through these hills. I guess that's a bit unfair. I have more red-neck blood in my veins than any other kind.

So, as you can see, I am rambling along here and probably need to stop and put this in the mailbox. Thanks again for the letter, and we do hope to see you later this summer. Be well, and keep in touch.

As Ever - - -

Your pal Jerry