Abagunda

ian-espinosa-rX12B5uX7QM-unsplash

I have nothing left to say. Do you ever feel this way? I started blogging in 2013. Since then I’ve published at least one story per month, and one month, during a brief period of unemployment, fifteen. I’ve used up all my material, I’ve told every story there is to tell.  For years, I did this obnoxious thing. For just about any topic that came up in conversation, I said “I’ve blogged about this.” It’s true, after hundreds of blog posts, I’ve pretty much covered any topic important to me. I stopped telling people about it when I realized nobody cared.

Did you know I’m hearing impaired? I’ve blogged about this. Multiple times. It’s a tough subject to avoid. Because it affects me every single day, it’s constantly on my mind. The other day, a woman called to tell me she wanted to donate thousands of dollars to the library where I work. She had some ideas on how we might use the money.

“What?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t get that.”

“Can you to speak a little louder, please?” Eventually, I passed the call off to my boss.

I think there are noble, or at least reasonable ways, to lose your hearing. A teacher in our school district lost most of his hearing due to a childhood illness. A blogger I follow lost her hearing after a traumatic brain injury that left her in a coma for a month. Me? I listened to speed metal full blast on my car stereo.

My father is also hearing impaired. There’s a chance mine might be genetic. But… speed metal, plus my two (older) brothers have no hearing problems at all. And one of them played in a punk band for three years.

When I realized I needed hearing aids, I was bummed. Fifty-two felt too young. Hearing aids are for old people. But I could only hear half of what was said to me. My family lived in constant annoyance. I got lost in meetings because I never knew what everyone was talking about. Going to a restaurant with friends became stressful—too much competing noise. One day I realized that I was unconsciously reading lips.

Incidentally, I still read lips. While my hearing is corrected, it isn’t perfect, and a visual cue helps me fill in the missing pieces. During this era of mask wearing, I’m starting to miss things again. I’m feeling left out.

I don’t wear my hearing aids when I run or bike ride. My internal cooling system is hyper-efficient (meaning I sweat a lot). Hearing aids and moisture don’t mix. Plus, I always worry that they’ll fall out. They cost a fortune, and I can’t be buying replacements all the time. Moving into the summer, I worried about my decision to coach Eli’s mountain bike team. When Eli and I ride together he always tries to talk to me. “Hey dad, zumma zumma zumma?”

“WHAT?”

“Never mind!”

I worried about constantly being embarrassed that I couldn’t hear the kids on the team.”

There’s not much I can do about the sweat, but I found a way to avoid losing my hearing aids. I bought a little cord that lashes them together behind my head. If one falls out, it will dangle from my other ear. That’s the idea anyway. It hasn’t happened yet. An even bigger embarrassment: “Wait! Everyone stop riding! Help me find my hearing aids!”

At the first practice, a guy walked over with his two kids, a boy and a girl.

Me: “Hi kids, I’m Coach Jeff.”

Girl: “Hi, I’m Hannah.”

Me: “Hannah, great. And you?”

Boy: “Abagunda.”

Me: “Abagunda? All right then…”

A minute later I heard him introduce himself to another coach. “Hi, I’m Andrew.”

So wearing my hearing aids isn’t a fool-proof remedy against embarrassment.

Susan says (and you will too) that having a coach with hearing impairment will be an important learning experience for the kids. Is it true? Just ask Abagunda.

~ ~ ~

My recent posts have been political in nature. Racism, gun control, Black Lives Matter, Covid-19, Donald Trump. Each time I hit publish, I wait for the flames. Trolls, or just conservative men and women who take issue with what I wrote. It only happened once. Last week. My blood pressure spiked. My heart raced. I felt exposed. I don’t like confrontation. I didn’t know how to respond. Finally, I wrote: Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. You and I will never see eye to eye but I guess one could argue that that’s one of the things that makes America a great country.

I often say I’d prefer to receive a negative comment instead of no comment at all, but once again, I learn that’s not true. When I told Susan what was bothering me, she said “if you put stuff like that out there, you have to be prepared to deal with comments you don’t like.”

So here you are, this time you get Abagunda, and hearing aids, and mountain biking. I think I need a break.

~ ~ ~

I received another comment last week that didn’t leave me feeling so great. Read the exchange between whycantibeloud and me at the bottom of #BlackLivesMatter #NotMyBag.  This was an eye-opening moment in my quest to understand my white privilege.

Photo by Ian Espinosa on Unsplash 

BTW, that photo: I searched for photos about hearing loss on Unsplash, this is one that came up. I can’t think of a better representation of what I imagine life without hearing would be like.

20 thoughts on “Abagunda

  1. Hearing loss would be frustrating. I have to rely on my glasses now to read things and that drives me nuts – your hearing loss would be far worse. My Dad lost his hearing in later years or a large portion of it at least. He refused to wear hearing aids and I think it was isolating for him. We lost the ability of intimate conversation as it always had to be loud or not at all. So it got to be not so much because I’m not a shouter. Very sad. I hope you will persevere with your hearing aids where possible. As for the other – the running out of conversation? Have you run out of conversation? Because that is all blogging really is – conversations. Maybe take a break and return refreshed – I would miss your input.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think hearing loss runs the spectrum from frustrating to isolating. One of the biggest issues is that decent, comfortable hearing aids are quite expensive. I know many people don’t get them just because of the cost. My eyes suck too. Without my medical interventions, I’d be completely useless.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m so glad you included that last paragraph, as I hadn’t been back to that post to read all the comments. That was an exchange of thoughts, experiences and ideas well worth my time.

    Jeff, I’m betting you’ll always have something worthwhile to say, in your typical engaging way. This post is simply another example. But yeah, for me there are days, and sometimes weeks, when I feel I have nothing left to say and I don’t write. I can’t even bring myself to comment on the posts of others. But then I live through some experience, or a topic comes to me, and I feel compelled to write once again. I’ve learned to go with the writing flow, even when sometimes it dries to an almost invisible trickle. It’s all okay.

    As for hearing aids? I admit I fall into the camp that doesn’t notice or care if someone wears them. In fact, I’m glad when they do, because (a) it alerts me to the possibility I might not be heard, or misunderstood, and (b) I can adjust my voice and interactions accordingly without thinking they’re choosing to ignore me. I’ve endured the person who won’t, for vanity reasons, wear hearing aids. They try my patience (and I have a lot of patience) when conversation devolves into constant “What?” and repetition. I hate to admit it, but I avoid interacting with them. Besides, how cool is it that today hearing aids are not only such good quality, and virtually invisible? Almost all of us will need them, at some point in our lives, if we live long enough.

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    • It’s eye opening for me to have developed an obvious disability in the middle of my life. Around 25 years ago, I got hit by a car in December. I was pretty banged up. I needed to Christmas shop in a wheel chair. I couldn’t believe how little of each store I could access because the chair wouldn’t fit through the openings. If I were king of the world, or some sort of small-time god, I’d make everyone live with various disabilities from time to time. I think it would do us all good to see how things are for others. And yes, I still get frustrated with my father when he can’t hear me (although it’s just as frequently me now who can’t hear). Human nature.

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  3. I had Scarlet Fever when I was a baby, caused hearing loss. I’m sure all the concerts I’ve been to haven’t improved the situation.

    I was given lip reading instructions in elementary school, 2nd grade I think… it’s stuck with me. I’m not an expert but I watch people’s mouths to understand. Add to that astigmatism and so near-sighted the big E on top of the eye charts is blurry. I often say “Hold on, let me put on my glasses so I can hear you” to my daughters.
    My Younger Daughter is a mumbler. I finally got tired of asking her to repeat, I just don’t respond if she isnt loud and clear enough.

    I know my eyes are worse, I need new glasses. I haven’t had my ears checked since I was in school. I know I need subtitles to watch a movie.

    I’m glad you directed us back to the comments. I was an early commenter and didn’t know about that “chat”.
    Like you, I don’t do crowds. I leave that to my Younger Daughter who is calling out everyone, including her mother. It’s good to stay aware and do what we can, even if it’s just writing a post.

    I also agree that your observations on life are thoughtful and well written, I don’t think you’ll be out of material as long as you live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Scarlet fever? That seems like one of those diseases that was eradicated back in the early fifties. For a few years, my son spoke in a frequency I simply couldn’t hear. It was so frustrating for him that he had to repeat everything four times. Luckily, he’s got a crazy deep voice now and I can hear pretty much everything he says… except when we’re riding and I’m not wearing hearing aids.

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      • I was surprised when my mother told me that’s what caused it🤷🏼‍♀️ I was born in 68 so I’m assuming it was in that year… At least I didn’t go blind like poor Mary Ingalls from Little House On The Prairie 😂

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  4. I feel like I have some inside experience here having met you and experienced conversations with you when you didn’t have your hearing aids in. I felt bad because I knew from reading previous posts that you hated having to always yell “What?” I wished there was another way I could communicate with you when we ran side by side. Hopefully, your new hearing aid connector plan works out for you on the mountain biking team and abagunda 🙂 . I also never realized how much I rely on reading people’s lips, or at least, just looked at their mouths when they talk. I am at a loss with the masks on as well.
    I’ve only ever gotten one negative comment on one of my posts. I felt the same way. I think I did the childish thing and wrote a whole other post as a response to the comment proving my point. Yeah, it was childish. I don’t think I would do that again, so live and learn.
    Very good comment to read. I am glad you shared it and pointed our attention to it. It is very eye-opening.

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    • Luckily (or really unluckily) my hearing aids are getting so old that I’ll probably be getting a new pair soon. Then I’ll use my old pair as a dedicated exercise pair and I won’t be so protective of them. I’ll be able to wear them when I’m doing races with friends. Now I just need to get in shape so I can keep up.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think it’s important to be mindful of the isolating nature of it. It’s so easy to leave them out and settle into my own world. I do this sometimes in the evening and my family will start a discussion and I can’t participate. And as far as I know, they’re not trying to diminish me… but I could be wrong.

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  5. As I was reading this, my husband called out something from the other room and I yelled back “What?” “Oh, Never Mind.” was the response. That’s pretty common conversation around here, and it goes both ways. I just said to him earlier this morning that I probably should get my hearing checked. But I’m a lot older than you.
    I feel like your post begins as a response to my last post about not writing. LOL. ???
    My mother in law is 93, wears hearing aids, and is legally blind from macular degeneration. She has been widowed for fifteen years and lives alone, just a few blocks from her daughter. She really felt isolated during the pandemic.
    I read your BLM post several times. Couldn’t quite formulate a response but am glad you directed me back to the responses. I created a very innocuous anecdote to post but have just not yet made myself do it.
    I’m glad you posted about the topic.

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  6. I’m at the other end of the spectrum: people can’t hear me. I have a congenital defect in my vocal chords. My voice is breathy and weak, and the deeper pitches aren’t there. Vocal impairment is not understood as a disability. People seem to assume I have psychological problems. They often get mad at me for something I can’t change.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m sure I will be getting hearing aids in the near future. I’ve had the Abagunda experience before. At work where we are wearing face shields and masks , communication is definitely more challenging.

    My mom has needed hearing aids for many years and will likely never get them. She used to miss a lot of what the kids would say to her. My mom seems to hear my son’s voice better than mine or my daughter’s.

    I have a soft voice. I can definitely speak louder but at a certain point it seems to change the tone of what I am trying to say–not sure if that makes sense—so that it makes me sound more aggressive without my meaning to be.

    I’ve been accused of being a mumbler by my mom when I know others can understand me perfectly. It is frustrating.

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  8. I’ve gotten a few negative comments too and I basically handle them the same way you did.

    I think lots of us geezers who mispent our youth listening to loud music are in the same boat as you. Listening to my hubby and I have a conversation is sometimes like a Laurel and Hardy skit. WHAT???

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