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The Secret of Snow


One of the most beautiful things I can think of is a blanket of freshly fallen snow. The beauty of snow is best enjoyed from a warm place.  I’ve enjoyed the snow by being cozy and warm looking out of the window or all bundled up and playing in the stuff.   Snow is not enjoyable when one is cold.  No, that won’t do at all.  Warmth is the basic requirement for enjoyment of snow (in my humble opinion.)

 In my life I’ve live in places where snow was common.  Temperature has a great deal to do with enjoying being out in the snow.  While at the University I used my nose as a thermometer to decipher just what kind of torture I was out in.  I’ll use Fahrenheit in this case because I’d have to convert my memories to Celsius.  -20 and no wind-chill factor feels like it takes 20 seconds to freeze the inside of the nose.  Practically speaking that meant that I would step out of my apartment, lock the door, walk three apartments further and feel the innards of my nose turn to ice.  Now that was bad but tolerable. What I hated was -40.  This pleasure could be felt most effectively because of the rapid torturous onset.  Step outside bring hand with key at the ready to lock the door and feel your nose freeze.  This California woman thinks that avoiding the freezing snow is something to DO.  I prefer a warm beach.  

Snow drifts are an entirely different scenario.  Wear good boots, step carefully and hope that I am taller than what is filed up out in the world.  Slipping on ice isn’t fun.  Black ice is the worst thin imaginable.  Staying inside a warm house is the best way to enjoy the white stuff.  From my window I like the snow and it likes me.  Snow is eerie. Within the silence of the snow there are dangers.  

When I was a child I read “Silent Snow Secret Snow” Conrad Aiken tale of a young boy trapped by the snow.  At first reading, being the psychologically minded soul that I am, I thought “the boy is losing it mentally”   yes, he was.  It was not mental illness setting in but rather the silence of deafness: the muffled and isolating silence of the snow.  

I do not like this snow.  It has imprisoned me in walls that I am sentenced to remain in until I shut my eyes one last time.  If I could knowingly have chosen I would not have chosen this.  I like a good fight, and for the most part I win the good fight.  The silence and isolation is a fight that cannot be won.  

There are ways of assisting the hearing impaired but they are not always worth the assist.  My first hearing aid was little more than a microphone that helped me to hear things at a higher volume.  The hearing aids I now wear are works of genius.  For those of you old enough to know the phrase “you’ve come a long way baby” that is what I think of when I compare the old with the new.  

As I compose this blog I am listening to Tangerine Dream “Great Wall of China” I have a setting on these hearing aids that is programed to allow me to enjoy music to its fullest.  What you enjoy without giving it a second thought I enjoy by flipping a switch.  If I don’t flip the tiny switch on the tiny hearing aid that is stuck into my tiny ears I don’t hear it all.  What I don’t hear, even with these two lovely gadgets, is greater than I would like.  

The hearing loss came about in the same way as my vision loss.  

My lack of hearing affects me differently than my lack of full vision.  You can train a visually impaired person to use their ears more, to use their hands, their nose.  The hands and the nose are great tools to learn to use.  I have a great nose.  BUT my hearing doesn’t work right.  Hearing what is said doesn’t work unless conditions are good.  In a crowded room conversation is lost on me.  If I can’t understand you I won’t be able to respond well.  Worse yet I may not hear you or hear it incorrectly.  

Hearing loss causes social isolation. While I will feel you tap on my shoulder I may not hear your speech fully.  While I might be a part of the group around the table I will not hear the discussion as I should.  

Recently I made the painful discovery that I talk to avoid hearing.  During mealtime I am busy with my food to avoid hearing and responding incorrectly.  When I discovered these two facts I felt a sadness that I had never felt before. My hearing loss has affected me profoundly.  As I type the words on this page  I wonder how I’ve managed and yet I understand that for me this has always been normal so I’ve learned to cope with it.  Now I wonder if how I’ve coped with it is healthy.  This means that I need to change my style of interacting with others.  This means that I am going to make request of people that I haven’t made prior to this time in my life.  I think that it will be a strange to do this but better for me in the long run.  I’m coming out of the hearing impaired closet.

With my vision the process of making my visual day easier has been primary based on things I can do myself and ASK others to do for me.  I’ll be asking for more stuff in a different context.  
Because I lack the visual clues that might compensate for the hearing loss the way to speak with me changes.  So here are some simple Gail friendly rules that will help me to understand what it is you want to tell me, and help me to understand what I’m hearing.

Stuff you can do to help me enjoy hearing  
1.    Get my attention by calling me by name.  In a public situation I will not see that you want to talk to me.  Wait until I acknowledge you, and then continue to speak.  If I don’t turn or notice you I won’t hear you or know that I should be responding to you.  
2.    Speak in a normal voice.  If I need you to speak up I will ask you to do so.  
3.    I may need to have you repeat what you said.  If I don’t understand you I’ll want you to repeat things.  
4.    Sometimes I misunderstand when I think I haven’t done so.  If this happens please show respect for me by not laughing.  Repeat what you said and I will respond.  
5.    Don’t give me visual clues.  I won’t see anything visual well enough to understand.  
6.    I may or may not recognize your voice.  Just as it takes me time to learn faces it also takes me time to learn your voice.  Once I know who you are I’ll know who you are.  The good thing about voices is that you can’t change them.  
7.    I will not hear you easily in a crowded place.  The quieter the better.  If we can move the conversation to another spot then we should do that.  It is OK for either of us to make the suggestion to move somewhere else.  
8.    Hearing is an intense experience.  Believe it or not hearing is hard.  When I take my hearing devices out the world becomes quiet….like the snow.  If I tell you I’m tired it is most likely because my hearing quota for the day is at its end.

I have spent two weeks with full volume hearing.  The ticking of a once silent clock and the noise in the dining area have impacted me in ways that I wasn’t expecting. This situation is both nice and nerve racking at the same time.  Is this what normal people hear?  I’ve asked that of myself many times in the past tow weeks. The silence has changed.  I leave the public areas and discover the urge to turn off the sound.  

I am discovering a balance between noise and quietness.  It has been a long and difficult process.  I am ending this in silence.  The quiet hush sneaks in around me and I press the publish button.

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