One thing I’ve learned from living with my husband for the past 19 years is that there are many different kinds of deafness. Living with a physically deaf person can be frustrating at times. Living with someone whose full-time job appears to be creating new ways to be deaf is, well, excruciatingly frustrating.
According to the specialist, I have perfect hearing. I already knew it because I can hear a pin drop in the next apartment. But I went to the specialist because my husband decided once to turn the tables on me and complained that I didn’t seem to be hearing him (he was talking about physical hearing). So, always wanting to be vigilant against any possible health issues, I got myself tested. The specialist was genuinely incredulous when he asked me why I had come, and I told him. He shook his head and told me that I was hearing sounds in extreme ranges that he’d never even seen any patient ever hear before.
So my husband never tried that tactic on me again.
Over the years, I’ve been able to identify six of the most common types of deafness in our household. I thought I’d share my hard-earned wisdom here. I’m sure many of us have experienced, or perhaps even suffered from one or more of these kinds of deafness. It can’t hurt to be aware…knowledge is power, they say.
So the first obvious form of deafness is “Physical Deafness“. My husband is offically deaf, though it’s not 100%. He became deaf from working around airplanes in the days before they knew to wear ear protection. He gets a pension for his deafness. And I also get a nice little pension as well, apparently for putting up with his deafness. So technically, I’m not really supposed to complain about his deafness. So I do stoically put up with it, because, well, that little pension gives me enough spending money to go shopping whenever putting up with his deafness becomes too frustrating. :))
Perhaps it’s because he’s physically deaf, or maybe it’s simply because he’s a man, my husband has perfected other forms of deafness. It’s hard to choose which one he’s best at, but I’ll start with what I call “Distracted Deafness“. This one becomes problematic when he knows he has something to do, like repairs at a neighbour’s house…it’s as if nothing – and nobody – else exists until he can get over there to do it. When he knows something has to be done, it really gnaws away at him and he can’t seem to relax until he gets it done. And all during that in-between waiting time, his brain is already over there, mentally figuring out what tools he’ll need and what steps he’ll have to take to finish the job.
That’s admirable, I can identify, it’s what I used to have to do to keep up with my job as a computer network admin. But it does cause problems. Example…a few years ago, we went through a stretch of a few days when he was virtually unreachable. Nothing I said was making a dent in his distraction. His kisses were distracted, his hugs were mere pats on the back, his body was here but his eyes clearly showed that he was a million miles away. I kept asking him what was going on, but he kept saying nothing.
Finally on the 3rd day, my insecurities couldn’t take it anymore and I started crying, convinced that he’d found someone else. So I made him sit down and tell me what was going on. He sheepishly pulled himself back into the here-and-now and told me that for the past 3 days he had mentally been constructing a fountain in our front yard (which is very tiny by the way). He had been trying to figure out how to run the piping, how to connect it electrically, etc, etc. Now we had never ever talked about having a fountain in the front lawn. But as he shared this with me, I laughed. Not at him, but at the way his brain had been working – I’ve been there, stuck on an imaginary “problem” and unable to detach my brain from it until I had figured it out. So I very kindly ended his dilemma by reminding him that we had too many young children living in the neighbourhood so we couldn’t have a fountain for fear that one of them would drown in it. So that ended the fountain deafness – but the “distracted deafness” lives on with every new chore that comes along.
I think the next form of deafness might be getting worse with age. I’m not sure when it first began, but I do know it’s showing up more and more. I call it “Me-First Deafness“. We’ve all seen it…when someone has something they desperately want to say, and so they can’t seem to hear what anyone else is saying until they get to say theirs first. I’ve not only seen, I’ve felt it welling up inside of me too, when I want so badly to respond to someone’s opinion or contribute something really clever to the conversation, there comes a point where I can barely hear what anyone else is saying because my head is too full of what I want to say…I’m literally rehearsing in my head how I’m going to say it. My husband has gotten very good at this one. I’ve learned that there’s no point in trying to get him to listen to what I’m saying until he gets his words out first…even if it’s totally unrelated to what we’re supposed to be talking about.
The next form of deafness is probably the most common, and one of the most exasperating ones for me. “Selective Deafness” (others refer to it as Selective Hearing, but I prefer my label because I think it more accurately articulates the stubbornness behind it). Do I need to go into this one? Is it safe to say we’ve all experienced it? Haven’t we all caught ourselves at it? All I’m going to add is that my husband excels at this one. It’s always baffling to me how such an intelligent well-read man with an almost perfect memory can so conveniently not understand a point I’m trying to make in a discussion where it becomes clear to him that I might be (gasp) right. Or forget that I want to stop off somewhere when we’re en route to somewhere he wants to go…but admittedly that only happens when the place I want to stop off at is not someplace he enjoys going. Strange that…
For the next form of deafness I’m only going to whisper it, because, well, I do like to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I can’t prove that this one really exists…I just suspect…strongly suspect…enough to include it here. But I’m not going to provide examples because, well, I might come across as being crazy and paranoid for believing they’re anything but genuine innocent incidents of merely missing my words. I call this one (whisper) “Fake Deafness“.
The last one is the one I detest the most. I call this one “TV Deafness“. Okay, I admit it, there are moments in some programs that I don’t want to miss either…the last five minutes of a murder mystery, that moment in a soap opera when months of cliff-hanging storylines finally get explained and you find out all the sordid secrets that will never again be revealed for as long as you live. But come on now, how can a man be racing through the channels with a remote control one second and then become so totally immersed in a program the next that he can’t hear a word I’m saying?! How do I compete with Dick and Mary, or a little black hockey puck racing down the ice, or worse, the lions camped out on the Serengeti waiting for the gazelles to leap by?! I don’t get it. Unfortunately, not being able to understand it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
I do notice that his hearing magically comes back the moment I pick up my laptop and get totally immersed in my Facebook page. What’s that you said, dear?
Deafness. It’s about so much more than ears.
Sometimes when I say “I’m okay”, I want someone to look me in the eyes, hug me tight and say, “I know you’re not.”