Hearing Muggles Corner
In the world of Harry Potter the definition of a Muggle is:
“A person totally without magical powers. Most Muggles live in ignorance of the world of wizards and witches.”
There are also other types of Muggles in this world. For instance, I’m a Muggle in the world of the hard of hearing. What does that mean you say? Well, there is a part of this world where individuals cannot hear as well as I do. These wizards of the hard of hearing world go through life with very few people seeing them. You could easily say that the hard of hearing are invisible.
How did I become a Muggle in the hard of hearing world? It began about five years ago. My wife, Carol, woke up one morning and told me the hearing in her left ear was diminished. This was particularly worrisome, since she had lost the hearing in her right ear a few years prior to this. Her ENT started her on a low dose of steroids that was quickly increased, but within a few days the hearing in her left ear had disappeared. At this point we learned two terms – Sudden Hearing Loss and Profoundly Deaf. At that time, we came to the realization that our lives had just gone through a major irreversible change.
I had just become a “Hearing Muggle” and Carol was one of those hard of hearing invisible wizards. However, we didn’t immediately appreciate the full implications of how drastically our lives had changed.
Those changes were numerous and I would like to spend the rest of this essay sharing some of the issues I faced, and continue to face, as we entered this new phase of our life with me as the Hearing Muggle.
My first reaction was a quiet panic, as we tried to find a way of communicating. I tried high-speed handwriting that probably looked more like the distorted sounds that Carol was hearing! We were loaned an antique hearing tube by the local historical museum. It helped, but it was cumbersome. We got an iPad and loaded the Dragon Speak App onto it. This helped, but it made for very slow communications.
As we worked through each of these, it slowly dawned on us the difficulties that the hard of hearing face in this world. It also became apparent that our relationship was changing. How you say? Well just one example, Carol has always been the “straight man” when it comes to my telling jokes. Other family members, such as our children, don’t generally laugh at my jokes while Carol did. Now she couldn’t quite hear them and my humor began to fall flat!
At the time Carol lost her hearing, we were retired and spent a lot of time together. We would regularly have passing conversations while at home or travelling. That doesn’t happen easily any more.
An issue that all newly minted Hearing Muggles likely face is that of guilt. While we Muggles are not responsible for our partners’ hearing loss, we do quickly realize that we now have an advantage in this world, along with a burden. The advantage is most apparent in social situations, when you are able to pick up and participate in the many conversations going on around you. However, when you look over at your partner in those situations, you might see a blank expression. This is because your partner cannot hear, or understand, what’s going on and as a result is excluded from the social interaction. It’s at moments like that I feel guilty due to my hearing advantage. There is also the burden. Using the same social situation as an example, you as the Hearing Muggle might try to pull your hard of hearing partner into the conversation. You might do this by acting as the speech “translator”, or as the “enforcer” forcing others to slow their speech down and having one person speak at a time. This takes effort on the Hearing Muggle’s part and, to be honest, in addition to being a burden, one can become a little impatient, or resentful at times.
Another issue that all Hearing Muggles can appreciate is the regular need to repeat or even threepeat! Sure you say, it wasn’t my fault that my partner became hard of hearing. True, but when I get annoyed at the fact that I might have to repeat or threepeat something, or have to run from one end of the house to the other to answer an inquiry or phone, I feel guilty that I’m annoyed. My wife certainly didn’t choose to be profoundly deaf and the difficulties the hard of hearing wizard faces are far greater than any with which I have to deal.
This is my first attempt at trying to express one side of the hearing loss burden in a relationship. A few years ago, we attended the HLAA Convention in Portland Oregon. At the convention I met other Hearing Muggles and had the opportunity to share common “burdensome” experiences. I found those interactions to be very useful. I would like to do the same with this column. As time goes on, I’ll add other issues that I regularly face. However my hope is that other Hearing Muggles might share their concerns and, hopefully, share suggestions on how they have dealt with similar issues. This will benefit each of our “Wizards” and, hopefully, us.