The first person I recall that was hearing impaired was my grandfather. He ran a feed store and seed cleaning operation in our hometown. The feed store was fairly low maintenance, as in those days (early 1950s) there was no such thing as forklifts or mechanical assistance in handling the heavy sacks; it was all done by hand. The seed cleaning mill was a different story. Unfortunately, though my grandfather was an astute businessman with a great work ethic, he had no mechanical abilities. My dad (his son-in-law), on the other hand, was what one would call a mechanical genius and could fix anything, and was frequently called upon to come to the feed store for a repair job. Many an early morning the phone would ring; my mother would answer and on the other end would be my grandfather hollering, “Ask Harry if he can come help me fix something!” She did not have to go ask my father anything, as he and practically the whole neighborhood could hear my grandfather’s end of the conversation. Grandpa’s hearing was poor; however, he was not about to get hearing aids (they were quite primitive in those days anyway) and shouted so he, himself, could hear. My sisters and I used to think our grandfather’s hearing impairment was a source of humor. In fact, for anyone that has ever been around a person with hearing disabilities, there usually is a lot of humor found.

We hear jokes, such as “Three old boys sitting on a park bench. One asks, ‘What day is this?’ The next one says, ‘Thursday.’ The third one says, ‘I’m thirsty too…let’s go have coffee!” Actually, one of the stories I found a lot of humor in happened a few years ago in Elko, Nevada. I was performing at the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering there along with many others from all over.

Once you arrive, the committee has a great shuttle service to haul the entertainers to the various venues. I just got on the shuttle where the driver was laughing as he told me why. He had just left off an old boy that had drove all the way from Arkansas. He told the fellow to fasten his seatbelt. No response. The driver repeated his request for his passenger to fasten the seat belt. The old boy said, “I never use the darned things.” The driver then said, “If you don’t fasten it, we will hear that bing-bing-bing all the way to the convention center.” The old man replied, “Is that what that noise is? I heard that on my pickup coming here and thought something was going wrong with my motor.”

All the many funny stories about misinterpretations caused by hearing loss are not so funny when you experience hearing difficulties yourself. Several years ago, I had an acoustic neuroma brain tumor removed, which took my hearing on the left side. I now have no ear drum or cochlear nerve and am totally deaf on that side. This causes my inability to decipher what direction sound is coming from, so when one speaks my name, I have to gawk around trying to determine where the person is. I’m sure this has caused some amusement to others, especially my grandchildren.

Then, to make things worse, my husband has become quite deaf, supposedly inherited, and also from years of daily tractor noise where tractors had no cabs to suppress the sound. In any event, we no longer find much humor in others in the same situation. We both have hearing aids of the most sophisticated kind but, even so, find it difficult to be in a crowd of people where there is a lot of noise and often find it hard to have a conversation within a group of people, especially those in our age bracket who are most likely to be in the same hearing situation. You can bet that half the conversation consists of “What did you say?”

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