Reading lips, and my world of silence.


When I was born, I had severe ear infections.  The infection was so bad, that my eardrums actually burst.  They placed tubes in my ears, this created some scar tissue.  I was unable to hear for the first year or so of my life. The doctor's didn't know if my deafness was permanent, so my parents enrolled me in ASL classes so that I could communicate with the world.  

I began to hear, I believe, at about 18 months, or so.  My parents stopped taking me to ASL classes because it appeared that my hearing was back, although not at 100 percent because of the scarring from the infection.

Fast forward to 12 years old.  I was playing in the back yard with our dog, Raja.  Beautiful golden retrieve/irish setter mix.  I would tease her, and she would jump at me, and I would jump back.  We played like this for 20-30 minutes.  I leaped forward, and she jumped at me again, as I jumped backwards, some fencing wire that we had lying in the back yard punctured my eardrum and ripped out my hammer, anvil, and stirrup.  I was so freaked out, that I went inside and just sat down.  I was supposed to have been doing some chores, but had been playing with the dog instead, so thought I'd get in trouble.  My father looked up when I sat down, and noted that there was some blood coming out of my ear.  Panic attack, anxiety attack, screaming, crying, and apologizing that I'd skipped my chores.

Anyway, they run me to the emergency room, and nothing they can do.  They stuck gauze in my ear, and scheduled to see a specialist.  A year later, I find myself at some specialist in Salt Lake City.  Tells me they can try to fuse some bones that might get some hearing back.  We try that, excruciating pain, that's all I remember really, that and crying until I fell asleep.  The doctor later tells my parents that it didn't work, and that the hearing was gone.

I really began to notice that I couldn't follow conversations like I used to about a year after all of the surgeries.  At least, that's when it really hit me that the words coming out of everyone's mouth seemed to be muffled, or dampened.  I began focusing on the way someone's mouth would shape a word, and I'd commit it to memory.  I'd practice sounds in the mirror at home and watch how my own mouth moved.  I found that I could read lips, but people not knowing I was struggling would turn their heads away from me.  When I would ask them to repeat themselves, I was instantly mocked, and ridiculed.  Just one more thing to make this kid "weird".

Now, when I meet people, I kindly ask them to face me, to look at me, and to not turn away from me.  I get along fairly well for a guy who hears about half of what's coming in.  The hearing in my right ear has slowly deteriorated over the years, and I'm down to about 75 percent hearing out of that ear, and the prognosis isn't good.  The likelihood that I'll be completely deaf someday is a very real possibility for me.  I make sure that I take an extra minute to hear the wind blow, or listen to the rain every chance I get.  I think it's made me appreciate those things all that much more as I prepare to enter a world of silence.

Until that day, I challenge each and every one of you to appreciate those things that you have, and stop lamenting what you do not have.  Embrace your gifts, and talents, and share them with others.  Take a minute out of your day, walk outside, and appreciate what you see, hear, smell, and yes, even taste.  Appreciate those things God has given you, you never know if you'll lose those things.  Anyway, thought I'd post something personal about myself as I continue this blog/journal.

PS If you read this, bear in mind that you must look at me, and I at you for me to hear you.

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