we aren’t sure when it happened, because i was one of those precocious kids who was able to read body language and fake my way through hearing tests. i didn’t do it on purpose, mind. i just wanted to pass the test. so at first the signs of my hearing loss blended in with my behavioural issues. (you aren’t surprised that i had behavioural issues as a child, are you?) in fact, i’m not even sure how they caught it. i’m just glad they did.
what i do know is that, at the tender age of 5 (maybe 6), i was legally deaf. not completely deaf. but to watch tv, for instance, they had to plug headphones in and turn the tv to maximum volume. and if i was in the back of the car and my parents wanted my attention, they had to yell as loudly as possible to have even a slight chance. fortunately, this was solved by putting tubes in my ears. (though it started to go bad once the tubes fell out, at which point some nice naturopath gave me some little white pills…and the hearing loss and constant earaches disappeared for good.)
clearly, as a music lover and musician, hearing loss is a big deal in general. in my case, it also affected my path through music. you see, the church i belong to is all about the singing. and it seems like everyone is working from day one to sing well. this is great and means we have loads of good singers. but my hearing issues meant that, for a while, i was the only person in my family who just plain sucked. all i knew how to do, really, was sing really loudly (so i could hear myself). and it was probably more shouting than singing, as i didn’t exactly know about using my diaphragm at that age.
like most people, i eventually came to take my hearing for granted again. and because all signs were that i just wasn’t a singer, i didn’t figure it mattered too much what happened with my ears. as long as i could hear music and hear well enough to do theatre, no worries.
now, however, i’ve got a very different attitude. one might say a touch of paranoia. because now that i know i’m a singer, now that making music is my future…i don’t dare lose my hearing. which means i ought to do better at wearing earplugs to noisy events, even friends’ gigs. even my own gigs and loud practices. that i don’t allows me to say it’s just a touch of paranoia instead of a load. but i still carry my earplugs in my purse. and i still make myself wear them at most shows, even if i feel like i don’t quite get the whole experience. i may be inclined toward some reckless behaviours these days, but i can’t afford to damage the tools of my trade.
the moral of this story is that kids are sometimes too clever for their own good and are lucky to get caught. and also that earplugs are your friend.