Sounds of Silence
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
I am lifting weights in a senior workout class at my gym. Even with earplugs the music gets too loud for me to be comfortable, so I walk to the front and ask the teacher to turn the volume down, which she does. As I return to my spot my friend Sue gives me a thumbs up because the music had been too loud for her also. However, the woman next to me asks, “Why do you want the music lower? I reply, “Because I have hyperacusis, which means sounds at a normal level for you are too loud for me.” She looks at me coldly and responds, “So that means the rest of us have to suffer?” I take in a quick gasp of air, shocked at her mean response, then immediately see an image of myself hitting her with one of my weights, which I do not do. My eyes narrow and I shoot back, “Does that really cause you suffering?” She ignores me. I think about leaving the class early as my anger is interfering with my enjoyment. But I got over that, calm down and finish my workout.
It made me think about a writer who spoke recently about problems she has had from being hard of hearing. People do not know she is deaf so they make up their own stories. When she did not adhere to some verbal warning, someone called her “rude” and another time she was called, “stupid.” People get reactive when they do not understand.
That is one thing, to not understand because you do not have the information. But choosing to stay on the defensive once you do have information is worse. I told the woman I had a hearing impairment and she did not listen and had no compassion. So she did not take in what I said. She was interested in her, “suffering” only.
Leaving the gym, I looked at the bright blue sky and thought of a time I was on the other side of this issue. I wanted to turn my car right from the street into a mall and the car in front of me, also turning in, seemed to be stalled and not moving. I could not see an obstruction on the sidewalk and cars were behind me, so I honked my horn from impatience. After I honked, I saw a person in a wheelchair slowly crossing in front of that car. I covered my mouth in embarrassment.
Move the letters of the word LISTEN around and you have the word SILENT. Take a breath and become silent as you listen. This can move you down from the angry reactive “red” zone, where you might honk impatiently or pick on a person with a hearing problem. Being silent buys you a moment or two longer to calm down, to avoid hitting someone with a weight, to notice the wheelchair, or to understand someone else’s suffering, rather than your own.