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The hour my hearing returned felt like a miracle

February 4, 2012 - Andrea Johnson
I was standing in line at the grocery store when my hearing started to come back a couple of days ago. I heard first a POP! and then the rustle of a bag, the beeping of a cash register and the check out clerk asking me "Do you want gas stamps?"

I never thought I would be so happy to hear such ordinary sounds.

I had a terrible ear infection in both ears in early January that left me with temporary but severe hearing loss. For more than two weeks, I was unable to carry on a conversation with someone sitting at the desk next to mine because I couldn't hear what they were saying. I haven't had a hearing test done, but my best guess is that I had lost at least 75 to 80 percent of my hearing.

It was a serious disability, particularly for a reporter who relies on her ears to conduct interviews. Face to face interviews were out, as was covering public meetings. When I talked on the phone I kept wishing I could turn the volume up higher, even though the volume was already as high as it would go. I was beginning to be afraid that my hearing would never come back.

The experience taught me some things. It gave me a taste of what it is like to be really disabled, which I hope will help me be more sensitive and understanding when I write about or meet with people with disabilities. I now know what it's like to have people give me an odd look in public when I couldn't hear what they had said and how it feels to be cut off from the conversation going on around me. When you can't talk to people or hear them, eventually they stop trying to talk to you.

I noticed how quickly I resorted to talking with my hands when I couldn't hear, even though I don't know sign language. I am not a physically expressive person, but I still found myself naturally pointing at things and using gestures and facial expressions along with speech. This is probably how sign language got started. I would like to learn more about sign language and deaf culture, but I'm grateful that it can be a choice and not a necessity.

I also was reminded just how quickly an unexpected event can derail my plans. There is no way I could have known I'd be deaf for the latter half of January and unable to work or just how much damage an ear infection can cause. It is a reminder to be grateful for what I have and to take nothing for granted. I am glad that I can hear the world again.


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