September 13, 2011

What If I Couldn’t Hear Your Voice?


Daughter image - copyright 2005 Mara Schantz

A few weeks ago, BabyGirl and I were talking in whispers and she asked me if I would be sad if one day I couldn’t hear her voice. I know, cue momma tears. I told her that I would be terribly sad if I couldn’t hear her voice or listen to her play violin or sing. Then our discussion turned to why Bubbe can’t hear some times. Besides being nearly 91 years old, I explained that Bubbe’s hearing has been changed by many things. I got a number of inquisitive stares.

We’ve talked about the ear and hearing before. Several years ago, while playing, another child began throwing sand at BabyGirl and quite a bit got into her ear canal. Besides it being excruciatingly painful, there was a period of time when she couldn’t hear very well. And while it was temporary, it was very concerning. As good as technology is, hearing assistive devices just aren’t the same as our own ears. And that’s why I’m really protective of my and BabyGirl’s ears. CycleGuy’s old enough he can take care of himself. Besides, with enough ‘convincing’ (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) over the years he’s pretty good at protecting his hearing.

I started wearing glasses when I was 7 years old. I had terrible vision. One of the ways I compensated for not being able to see well was to train myself to hear very well. I have very sensitive hearing and loud sounds, noises are actually very bothersome to me. The problem is that over the years I’ve taken in my fair share of concerts and sporting events and my hearing has become even more sensitive. My idea of loud is most people’s slightly above normal.

A few weeks ago I had a discussion with Ellen who works with a company called Etymotic Research. They had a booth at BlogHer but for a number of reasons I wasn’t able to spend time at the booth. I was particularly interested in talking to them to find out their perspective on BabyGirl using ear plugs when she practices violin. I’ve been vacillating as to whether or not it would really help her.   So in talking to Ellen I learned more about hearing and realized I’m not so weird to be thinking about BabyGirl’s hearing and her music training.

I know musicians in bands wear ear plugs. I totally get that. But I never see orchestral players wearing them. Ear plugs for musicians serve a number of purposes, besides allowing them to hear themselves. For me, concerts are really loud. I never imagined how loud it must be up on stage.

I started to blame my increased hearing sensitivity on aging. I am, after all, over 40. (I know, gasp!) But in talking with Ellen I came to realize that it’s the constant sounds we’re exposed to that can actually lead to hearing loss at an early age. Also, exposure to all the constant sounds in airports, conference halls, schools, shopping malls and pretty much everywhere we go really adds up on a daily basis. Even using hands-free devices for our cell phones can stress out our ears. Go ahead, laugh! Yes, I have ear stress!

I can’t imagine not being able to hear. I feel for my elders who need hearing aids. And it makes me so sad when I feel like I’m yelling at my grandmother just so she can hear me. So many memories are tied to the sounds of things. In just a few notes a song can bring a swell of memories. Hearing someones voice, even if it’s a recording can bring us to tears. It must be so hard for my Grandma to miss out on hearing things around her.

For me, my hearing is priceless. But I never knew how to protect it. And while I’m ‘that mom’ who had my infant wearing sun glasses, BabyGirl’s hearing, for me, is as important as her sight. She recently had a brief screening and we’ll be going to the ophthalmologist later this week. She said her hearing was fine, except …. Now my radar is raised. Except what? I’m thinking about  a hearing screening. If nothing more than giving me peace of mind, it’s worth it.

So why am I talking about hearing? Well, it’s something we don’t often talk about. We take it for granted. We expect it to always be with us. And while I encourage you to find ways to make all those ‘somedays’ happen, I’d hate for you not to be able to enjoy them because you’re struggling to hear.

I think the last time I had my hearing checked I was in elementary school. Maybe I’ve had it done since then, but I honestly don’t remember. And that makes me wonder if, maybe, I should get it checked. I’ve always just figured you get your hearing checked if there’s a problem. I guess that’s not the best time though.

Now I’m kind of obsessed with hearing protection. And I’m eyeing the new kids earphones coming out in October. We’ll be traveling soon and I know BabyGirl will spend 4+ hours with her headphones on. Also, she spends time each day listening to her violin repertoire and wants to listen with headphones. She’s 8 so I still have some sliver of control (don’t burst my bubble!). So guess who’ll be having earphones that works with software that lets me control the maximum decibels she can intake? Yes, control freak mom here will be putting the brakes on the volume control! I’m such a mean mom!

As I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy silence. But I can’t imagine not being able to hear.

Have you ever wondered ‘What if I couldn’t hear?’ Do you do anything to protect your hearing? Do you worry about hearing loss?

Disclosure: I’m just chatting about hearing. I have no relationship to Etymotic and I’ve not yet used any of their products. And because I didn’t say it in my post I may as well put it here, because the ad geek in me just can’t let it go … Can you hear me now? (and I laugh)



Grady Pruitt September 13, 2011 at 8:17 am


Sometimes, the things kids say, really do make us think. I’ve probably abused my hearing in the past, though, I hope, not as much as some. Thanks for this eye-opening (or ear-opening 😉 post!

Ellen Rowan September 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Wow Sara! Thank you so much! This post is so beautifully written and so important for all to read and consider. We teach our kids to brush their teeth multiple times a day to avoid cavities but often don’t think about teaching them to be aware of and proactive in protecting their hearing. As we talked about on the phone, I frequently get agitated and cranky from noise overstimulation but until recently (when I met my Etymotic friends) I hadn’t identified that it was caused by overexposure to loud noises. I now carry my Etyplugs with me everywhere I go. I pop them in at games, musical events, flights, parties, etc. I don’t think people realize that with these earplugs, you actually hear the sounds around you better. When we were at BlogHer, we ate dinner at an extremely noisy restaurant and when we all had our earplugs in, we could actually hear our conversations!

It is a mission of mine to only work with companies who make a high impact in family wellness, education, sustainability and art expression. It may seem as though I have a bias since I do work with Etymotic, but I really do believe in these authentic people and their commitment to education, innovation and hearing conservation.

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