When you rely on visual clues, such as lip/speech reading, body language, facial expression, and even sign language, in order to hear, it becomes a fact of life that communication during the darker hours will prove a challenge, and eventually an impossibility.  Take away adequate lighting in any situation and your lack of hearing slowly draws you inside of yourself, leaves you feeling left out, and sometimes distressed.  When that happens, depending on how vulnerable I am feeling at that moment, a decent into certain isolation sets in as the ability to understand and participate dries up.  On occasion, I have even experienced zoning out into another dimension.  One moment I am fine; with the first missed words a panic washes over me and I begin to feel more and more removed from reality as I lag farther and farther behind in the conversation; the next moment I am zapped into an “out-of-body” experience where I find myself looking down upon the scene in which everyone else continues to move at normal speed, but time and movement has all but stopped for me; slowly, as the lack of ability to understand and participate intensifies, I begin shrinking, getting smaller and smaller–do you hear it?  That sucking sound, schluuuuuuuuuuuuuup…  A super slo-mo visual of the Wicked Witch of the West, in the “Wizard of OZ” comes to mind, “I’m shrinking (melting), I’m shrinking (melting)!!!; I finally become so small that I am trapped under a glass jar with no sound, no escape.  And the funny thing is, no one else seems to notice!  I am sure the *bees and *lightning bugs of my childhood know that feeling of suffocation and isolation.  Total distress!!!

*NOTE:  DO NOT be alarmed!!  No bees or lightning bugs were harmed for the writing of this article–I always found a nail or ice pick to poke holes in the lid of the jar, and I always released my critters alive.  Much more humane than my “out-of-body” experiences, as there are no air holes in my glass jar.
Okay, I’m overeacting here!  My extreme and dramatic imagination has kicked in, but you get the idea.  When you lose the ability to understand and participate, it DON’T FEEL GOOD, and it AIN’T NO FUN!!

Words spoken while sitting around a campfire, dining by candlelight, or lying in bed at night with your significant other, before falling asleep, all have become things enjoyed in the past.  I have already grieved for those losses, as it has been years since I have been able to hear in low or no light situations, but I do occasionally still become sad when an aforementioned scenario arises.  However, I try not to think on what I can’t hear, those conversations missed (missed  v. tr. noticed, regretted or felt the absence, loss, or lack of.) in the dark. 

As a solution, It has been suggested that I carry a penlight or flashlight in order to illuminate the speaker in a low or no light situation.  Granted, a light shining from below a speaker’s face would add an additional scary element to the the telling of spooky stories around the campfire, while also allowing me to lip/speech read, but how useful this method would be during a romantic, candlelit dinner is questionable?  The amorous mood and atmosphere might suffer if I shined a light on the face of my dinner partner in order to see them speak.  Not to mention the stares of our fellow restaurant patrons if this particular dinner were to take place in public, in an upscale restaurant. 

In the previous paragraph, I purposely did not mention conversation, at night, while driving in a car, as most of us who have lost hearing know that talking in a car, even in the daylight hours, is difficult at best.  Especially if it is the hearing impaired person who is driving.  Turning to look at a speaker is so second nature, I always tell my passengers before our journey begins that I do not converse in the car, as I find myself taking my eyes off the road to see what they are saying.  Sometimes I can catch what someone is saying from the back seat, if the rear view mirror is positioned so that a person’s face is reflected, but still, it just isn’t a good idea to concentrate on anything other than driving, when driving. 

And yet, I love the dark!  I worked very hard to overcome my fear of darkness, learned as a child.  I forced myself to think rationally and practically and have come to enjoy late night walks alone and an occasional solo camping trip. 

And then there are those conversations missed (missed  adj. not caught with the senses or the mind; failed to hear.) in the dark.  You know!  Those phrases misheard or misinterpreted.  Here are a few examples of common mondegreens in song:

  • “There’s a bathroom on the right.” vs. “There’s a bad moon on the rise.”
  • “The girl with colitis goes by.” vs. “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.”
  • “I hurdled through the grapevine.” vs. “I heard it through the grapevine.”
Some years ago while lying in bed, in the dark, with my husband, we laughed and chatted about nothing at all, as we often did before falling asleep.  At the time, I still had some ability to understand and participate in conversations where light was limited or nonexistent.  Eventually the conversation came around to a more endearing tone and I heard my husband call me his “…Lump of Cement”.  I laughed, repeating what I thought I heard with a questioning tone, “Lump of Cement?!!”, which brought uproarious laughter, as my husband turned on the light and repeated his endearment for me.  All these years later, we still laugh over my being his “Lump of Cement”.

Yes, the brain can be a poor substitute for the auditory nerve, but it’s ability to fill in the blanks left by hearing loss remains mostly miraculous, even if flawed on occasion.  And it is those flawed occasions that lend some much needed comedy to the malady of losing your hearing.

I will ever miss/miss words uttered in the dark and will surely feel sadness when situations where it is impossible for me to understand and participate arise, but that sadness will always be countered with laughter over those words or phrases misheard or misinterpreted.

How wonderful that life counters sadness with laughter.  It is so with most of life’s challenges.


0 thoughts on “MISSED/MISSED IN THE DARK by Michele

  1. This happened to me a couple years ago at a family gathering. Though I’ve been hh/deaf most my life, for some reason they all thought it was a great idea to sit in the dark out on my aunt’s covered porch. I refused (knowing I wouldn’t be able to read their lips), and they kept calling to me, acting like I was being anti-social for not going out there and sitting like a bump on a log. I finally asked, “why do you want me to sit out there knowing I can’t hear or lip read what you’re saying in the dark?” Oh they’ll all speak up, they said. Well they didn’t and it just sorta came to a head because this has happened so many times in my life. There was no reason they couldn’t all sit in the well lit livingroom. I threw a hissy-fit right then and there. Then we left. Later a couple friends told me to always carry a small flashlight with me just for those occasaions. And I DID get one as soon as I got home. But ever since that day I haven’t needed it. I made my point loud and clear. 🙂 I wish I didn’t have to do it that way though.

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