• Dr. Vin

Sounds of Silence

I just took a senior workout class at my gym. Even with earplugs the music got too loud for me to be comfortable so I went to the front and asked the teacher to turn the volume down, which she did. As I was returning to my spot my friend Sue gave me a thumbs up because the music had been too loud for her also. However the woman next to me asked, “Why do you want the music lower? I replied, “Because I have hyperacusis, which means sounds at a normal level for you are too loud for me.” She looked at me coldly and responded, “So that means the rest of us have to suffer?” I was shocked at her mean response and immediately saw an image of myself hitting her with one of my weights, which I did not do. My eyes narrowed and I shot back, “Does that really cause you suffering?” She ignored me. I thought about leaving the class early as my anger was interfering with my enjoyment. But I got over that, calmed down and finished my workout.

It made me think about a writer I heard recently who spoke 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.

I am recalling a time I was on the other side of this issue. I wanted to turn 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 and to my embarrassment, I saw a person in a wheelchair slowly crossing in front of that car. Oops!

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.

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