When I suddenly lost all the hearing in my ‘good ear’ in 2011, I thought my worst fears had been realised. For so long, I had lived in dread of losing what was left of my hearing that when it seemed to be happening, I had no idea how I would ever cope.
It really did feel as though the worst possible thing had happened.
People tell you that ‘time is a great healer’ and ‘you’d be amazed at what you can adjust to,’ but when you feel as though you’re living through a waking nightmare, it’s really hard to see past it to a time where you will be happy again.
When you’ve been somewhat fixated on your hearing/hearing loss for years, constantly checking and re-checking what you can and can’t hear to determine if the loss is getting any worse; it’s easy to see how suddenly losing a huge chunk of hearing could seem like the worst thing ever.
Except, it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me and in retrospect, I’m not even sure that it’s the worst thing that has ever happened to me. And here’s how I know this.
Because when one door closes another opens. For me the door to being able to function totally in a hearing world was closed for seven months, until I got some Bi CROS hearing aids which thankfully helped me to communicate more confidently again.
But, the door that opened was one which led to me becoming a dog-lover and that has given me more joy than I ever could have imagined.
My previous posts for Limping Chicken tell of how I longed for a Hearing Dog when I lost my hearing and how I instead came to have a rescue dog.
Since those posts, what has happened is that I have gone from being merely a ‘dog-owner’ to a ‘dog-lover’ and I now feel that this love has replaced any sadness I felt about losing my hearing.
So much so, that if someone offered me the chance to have my hearing restored at the expense of losing Tilly, our beloved rescue Westie, than I’d politely decline the offer without a moment’s hesitation.
When I think of how much I railed against accepting my hearing loss in 2011, it seems unfathomable that I would ever be in a position where I’d say I would choose something else over getting my hearing back but you see, that’s love for you.
Tilly gives me so much and I love her unconditionally. She is my almost constant companion. She makes me aware of any visitors to the house before they’ve even reached the front door. She gives me the freedom to wander the house for hours on end sans hearing aids.
I’m no longer having to be on high alert: she takes the fear of the unexpected away from me. She lets me relax.
The other week, my hearing aid batteries ran out while I was walking home from town. Now, there’s a time when this would have thrown me into a blind panic but instead, with Tilly at my side, I embraced the experience and was able to remain calm.
I chose not to let it get to me. I’m fortunate that without my hearing aids, I am still able to hear my own voice (in the same way that I can hear my own chewing and swallowing in that they seem really loud in comparison to everything else).
I found it comforting to be able to chatter to Tilly on the way home, reassuring myself that I hadn’t suddenly lost all of my hearing and that all that had happened was that my batteries had run out. It made me think about Charlie Swinbourne’s post about the noises we make to test our hearing. (Mine’s a cough, if you were wondering.)
I realised that by being able to talk to Tilly on the walk home, I could reassure myself that I could still hear something, and that calmed me. Without Tilly by my side, I may have had to cough all the way home.
I took extra care when crossing the roads and I got home not just in one piece, but quite calm and relaxed.
And this is the effect Tilly has on me. Dogs live in the moment: they don’t worry about the future or dwell on the past. This state of mindfulness has a wonderful way of rubbing off on you if you let it. I spend so much of my time now smiling.
I smile at Tilly when she greets me in a morning with her very waggy tail and her paws out-stretched asking to be picked up and let onto the bed.
I smile at how contented she looks as we tickle her tummy or rub behind her ears.
She makes me smile with her funny little ways, such as rubbing her head on the skirting board every morning before going down for breakfast. (I just know the other dog-lovers reading this are all now smiling and nodding in agreement.)
I smile at how she leaps into snow drifts or runs with gay abandon on the beach.
I smile when she sits on my knee while I’m typing (even though it plays havoc with my posture).
And, she makes me smile while we play with her now squeakless squeaky ball.
Now, I’m not saying having good hearing didn’t make me happy: it did. I used to be a freelance music journalist and I loved going to gigs and listening to my favourite bands.
But, at the time I didn’t consciously think about enjoying the art of hearing, so to speak. This awareness of how happy I am in each moment as I experience it well, that for me is something totally new. And I have Tilly to thank for that.
I still worry every now and then about how I will cope as my remaining hearing dwindles (as it’s likely to do as I have a progressive condition in my right ear) but I try not to dwell on it.
I suffered a detached retina not long after my sudden deafness and that was absolutely terrifying to me. Thankfully, my sight was saved but I never feel complacent now.
I cherish what I have rather than focusing on what I don’t. And so, I have come to understand what people mean when they say that ‘time is a great healer’ and now I’m the one saying, “It’s amazing what you can adjust to.”
So, what I wouldn’t give to get my hearing back is my beloved ‘Tilly’. She is worth more to me than even that most precious of commodities: hearing.
Angie has been nominated for the UK Blog Awards in three categories: one is for the ‘Health’ category for her blogs on Limping Chicken. The public vote finishes midnight, Sunday 26th January 2014. We hope that you will support her – click here to vote for Angie!
Angie Aspinall is co-owner of Aspinall Ink. She’s a freelance journalist and travel writer and co-founder of Twitter’s top weekly business networking event, #Yorkshirehour. A qualified Trainer and Coach, she’s perfectly placed to provide training to the tourism industry on a range of topics including ‘Using Twitter for Business’. Angie works part-time for a UK charity too. Angie was diagnosed with otosclerosis in her right ear aged 30 and then became suddenly deafened in 2011 in her other ear. She is a lipreader and a big fan of Bi CROS hearing aids.
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