You may have heard about the cell phone ring teachers are not able to hear. #2 Son found it for me on the Internet, and this middle-aged woman found it not only audible but piercing! Apparently my eustachian tube trouble really hasn’t effected my hearing, or at least not the higher ranges. What I have trouble with are male voices on my right side, particularly when the speaker is not articulating clearly and there is other ambient noise.
Pure Luck, however, cannot hear the high sounds at all. He tells me that working in industrial settings, primarily nuclear power plants, has blown that part of his hearing away. I can testify that I once bought a little bracelet that made a gentle jingling sound, then worried that it would bother him. It was not a problem at all, since he could not hear it. Nor can he hear the little angel chimes we enjoy lighting at Christmas. That last makes me sad, since I think their sound is so sweet.
This afternoon, The Princess and I were in the kitchen when I heard a terrible, high-pitched tone. Since Sons #1 and #2 and I had earlier watched an episode of “24,” I had a fleeting thought that something was about to explode!!! But I gathered my senses and followed the sounds, which were intermittent and seemed to be getting higher and more painful to my ears, particularly the bad one.
We found the source in Pure Luck’s office. He was testing his hearing and playing the high-pitched sounds on purpose. I asked him to stop! He asked me to listen to the next higher one, to see if I could hear it. He had already passed his limit. I was able to go two tones higher, and The Princess heard one or two beyond me.
The Princess went off to have dinner with her dad, and we took the dogs out to the park. On the way back, we were having a discussion about what to eat for dinner and whether we needed to stop for dog food and how much time was really left before we needed to leave for the movies with the birthday girl–the usual domestic logistics. I was driving, which put my husband on my bad ear side. Open windows made the car noisy. When he answered a question, I had to ask him to repeat himself, and then once more.
What came out of his mouth the third time was intended to make it easier for me to hear, but I heard “cross” and “frustrated.” Maybe that’s how a loud, deep voice always sounds to me. It certainly wasn’t his intention, although I took it that way for about half-a-minute.
After dinner we went to see “Cars” with The Princess. We sat through many, many previews, and finally saw the Pixar screen that indicated the short subject was about to begin. And at the bottom of the screen we saw words in parentheses, describing the sounds made by the little Pixar symbol lamp that hops across the screen. I remembered seeing the young woman in front of us using sign language and realized the movie was going to be closed captioned.
I’ve watched many subtitled foreign films, but I’ve never been in a movie theatre while closed captioning was employed. It’s strange to see the words you can understand already spelled out on the screen. I wondered how helpful descriptions of the type of music used in the underscoring would be to a person who has never heard music? What is the difference between a “grand orchestral swell” and a “cheerful Western theme?” How do you grasp the context of something that is so thoroughly unfamiliar? What do the words mean when you cannot hear what they represent?
For the first third of the movie, at least, I found I was reading the words, as if I couldn’t stop looking at them to look at the movie’s images. I am always drawn to words, particularly words with music. Music makes me hear words differently, more deeply somehow. Sing me a song, and I will be able to repeat the music and the words to you. Read me a passage, and I will have to ask you for a copy to look at before I really know what you have said.
If I only had reading and no hearing, after 45 years as a hearing person, I would still remember how things sounded. I would remember the melodies and the harmonies that have woven themselves into me. I would hear them in my mind and in my heart. I hear better when I can read.
Wouldn’t it be nice if the things we were meant to do with our lives were spelled out like the closed captioning, leaving no doubt? Sometimes I feel meaning-impaired; I feel I am mis-reading the pattern, forgetting some key to a code given to me before I was born. Other times I feel I can almost hear the directions being given to me, almost, like the voice of my son from upstairs being muffled by the rustling of the plastic bag my husband is opening here in the kitchen. So close–I can hear the skeleton of his sentence, but the flesh is missing.
In my life, I can almost hear God telling me what I am to do next. I know there is a sentence to diagram, and I can almost tell its form, but I can’t yet parse the fullness of its meaning. The breeze blows, the bags rustle, the traffic of life overlays its rumbles and squeals, and I struggle in the midst of the road to listen in the right direction, to follow on the narrow way.