I find that I spend more time in my car getting from here to there than nearly any other place. It’s a sad fact but one that I find is becoming more commonplace in today’s fast-paced culture.
I love to listen to NPR. There is always a piece of news I have missed or a personal story that I need to hear, and the ridiculous game shows on the weekends are truly a guilty pleasure. I was driving home the other day and there was a short radio documentary about cochlear implants, following one young woman who was making the decision to get one. This young woman wasn’t born deaf, she had a condition where her hearing steadily got worse and worse until she finally lost all hearing at age 22. She tried to learn how to read lips and started to investigate ASL, but she and her family struggled to pick up this new way of communicating after two decades of regular speech.
She finally went in to look at cochlear implants and made the decision to go for it. Her experience was so frustrating and isolating. The words that kept flowing from my radio were “I feel so alone.” Her family did the best they could to help her keep up with conversations but she was isolated and solitary. She didn’t fit into the world of sound she had once been apart of.
Fast forward to getting her implant – a few weeks after the initial surgery the young woman was able to have her implant turned on for the first time. At first she heard only buzzing and odd “robot” sounds coming from the specialist. After tweaking some settings and a few minutes of intense neurological processing this woman was able to hear words!
All of a sudden I’m sitting in my car crying with her. She is just sobbing saying “I haven’t heard anyone say a word in so long.” And the specialist says “its ok to cry honey, everyone cries in here. Heck, I cry with them,” and she WAS crying. Here we were, three people experiencing completely different things, and I’m just hearing this on the radio. I felt silly for a minute and then I decided it was ok for me to cry with the women in the story. Throughout the show I really felt pain for the young woman as she struggled with the loss of communication and then I felt so much joy when she was able to hear a few simple words. I was also moved by the specialist for her empathy, she embodied the idea of feeling with someone and letting them know you understand.
These moments are so small but they can be such a powerful way to shake us out of our stupor or give us a little piece of goodness to carry through our day. The radio documentary was a gift to me, a way to remind me that sometimes the little things, like hearing words, are an incredible point of connection to the people and places we love.1
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