Surprised by Sudden Sounds

Hello, what?

A firsthand account of a hearing challenge, one told in the first person. That’s what. Hello in there, hello.

Simone: I know you’re right, Pee-wee, but…

Pee-wee: But what? Everyone I know has a big “But…? C’mon, Simone, let’s talk about *your* big “But”.

Before opting for a $400 pair of hearing aids, I asked some friends and relatives if they were happy with a pair of ear inserts, ones that had cost twice as much as the shiny new automobile I purchased in 1973 (an AMC Gremlin if you must know). Each wearer had a big but that for one reason or ‘tother, so I just kept on mishearing words — mis-heards that made me the butt of many an “Are you deaf?” joke. My sister-in-law works with the elderly, she recognized the dynamic, remarking that many who mishear are falsely diagnosed as suffering from “dementia”.fork.and.knife

Oliver Sacks, the sorely missed independent thinker,  wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times that captures his personal experience with hearing loss: “Mishearings.” A timely take on the mind’s capacity for assigning meaning to spoken language.

And yet there is often a sort of style or wit — a “dash ”— in these instantaneous inventions; they reflect, to some extent, one’s own interests and experiences, and I rather enjoy them. Only in the realm of mishearing — at least, my mishearings — can a biography of cancer become a biography of Cantor (one of my favorite mathematicians), tarot cards turn into pteropods, a grocery bag into a poetry bag, all-or-noneness into oral numbness, a porch into a Porsche, and a mere mention of Christmas Eve a command to “Kiss my feet!”


Hearing loss had removed many unfortunate sounds: the song of birds, the snores of Loki the Cat, the sussurance of the familiar, the soothing and the calming. However, at this very moment I am listening to the sharp, measured and deliberate crunches Loki is making — less than a meter away.


Bird Sounds on DirtNKids 🙂


I am able to attend Arabic language classes at the local masjid once again, to actually understand the critical meanings lost to mishearings. It’s wonderful to join in with a measure of confidence that was quite impossible before 🙂

Now here is an unexpected but welcome circumstance: turning the devices off stills the din, the conical insert even acts as an earplug of sorts.

Now I jump into a wild cacophony of sound with a grateful soul. According to the instruction manual, it’s a gradual process that takes a bit of patience. I’ve only worn them for a week now, so my mind is still refreshing the inventory of sounds unheard for many years: floorboards squeak, a wall clock clicks with each passing second (I’ve timed it!) and my feet make a sweeping sound on a carpet.

Thanks for reading.


Author: Bill Ziegler

I am a former resident of Delhi Township. These are memories of my life and times in that community during the 1950s and 1960s. A time capsule.

7 thoughts on “Surprised by Sudden Sounds”

    1. Hallo Tanja! Thanks for the kind comment. A hearing test revealed that both ears were below a certain sound level — much like being under water. It was like coming to the surface and hearing sound through air rather than through water 🙂
      Ausserordentlich muss ich sagen!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. My aunt denied for the longest time she had hearing loss. She got a new lease on life with her aids, and it was refreshing to have a conversation with her back toward me for a change. It didn’t take long, before I noticed she was actively turning them off whenever my rambunctious four and I showed up for a visit. That silence must have been rewarding. LOL

    Glad you’re enjoying the bird sounds! And your new set of aids, Bill.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the insightful comments, Shannon. Mishearings had become so frequent that I would nearly have to ask everyone to repeat everything, hoping that I had heard each word correctly. It’s like playing a game of “Guess that Word” or, more often, not responding at all — something that your aunt might have done too 🙂
      It’s not possible to turn the volume wheel surreptitiously, is it? But I prefer *not* hearing side conversations — particularly about people around them, such as me, who say odd things that are entirely off the subject: “I was just trying to give you the silverware, hardly a call for such profanity!?! Well, I never! What’s wrong with you?”
      Your bird-sound collection is marvelous, even with the volume turned down 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My apologies for the delayed response, jkaybay — particularly since I had *not* seen it and since it so wonderfully captures the entire dynamic behind mishearings. Thank you so much for steering me to this classic clip 🙂
    Lord, your comment has spent two days in the inbox: unheard of laxity on my part! Deserving of redoubled apologies, that’s what I think!


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