Revitalized Hearing

1 Comment » Written on August 8th, 2013     
Filed under: News, reflections
I’m currently going thru a bit of a milestone event. Several weeks ago I got my first pair of hearing aids! I know, 51 seems a bit early for that but it’s something I knew I would face from a long time ago. It started when I was in college. One summer I was working in a salmon cannery in Cordova, Alaska and on a day when there were no fish we all went out to see the local glaciers. One fellow had a couple of guns and we enjoyed an afternoon of shooting at the glaciers. Yes, I agree, that sounds weird, but the idea was that by shooting at the glaciers which were across the river we could often get big chunks of them to break off and fall into the water, creating a rather spectacular scene and large waves that would wash across the river to the side where we stood. Having grown up in Japan it was my first experience handling real firearms and not knowing any better, I did so without any ear protection. Well, as you can imagine, I damaged my ears quite badly and when I got them checked by an ear doctor a month or two later I was told that the higher frequencies in one ear were at about 50% of normal and not quite as bad in the other.

Over time my brain seemed to compensate for the loss and after some time I hardly noticed it at all, except for the ringing in my ears which continues to this day, some 28 years later. But as I’ve gotten older my hearing has steadily declined and finally this summer I decided to do something about it. After several visits to hearing clinics in Tokyo and tests with several different hearing aids I finally settled on a pair that seem to meet my needs. But that was only the beginning.

When I tried my first pair I immediately recalled my father’s first experience with hearing aids. He had likewise damaged his hearing as a teenager, working in the pulp mills of Everett, WA with no ear protection and by the time he was in his 50s he too decided to get some help. What I remember was how traumatic it was for him at first. Little sounds like the clinking of silverware at the dinner table, or the rustling sounds of a newspaper were almost deafeningly loud and he complained all the time. I remembered all of this because I experienced the same thing. It turns out that when you have impaired hearing for a long time the brain does an amazing job of compensating and so when you once again are able to hear those little, high frequency sounds that you’ve grown accustomed to not hearing for so long, they are almost intolerably loud.

Fortunately, after a few more visits to the hearing clinic and some adjustments to the hearing aids I have found better settings and am gradually getting used to once again being able to hear the sounds I have missed for so long. As I become accustomed to hearing everything again the ear doctor will gradually turn the levels back up to where they should be but it takes time. This process has gotten me thinking. First, I am amazed at the ability of the brain to compensate for weaknesses in other parts of the body. Our bodies are truly a wonder of God’s creative ability. We are fearfully, wonderfully made in the image of God.

In the same way I am reflecting on the other body; the body of Christ and am reminded of how critically important it is for the stronger parts of the body to compensate for the weaker parts. While my brain seemed to automatically compensate for my weakened ears, in the case of the body of Christ I think it requires a conscious effort for us to recognize what parts are weakened and then to intentionally make the effort to let the stronger parts compensate for the weaker. Unfortunately I think we often fail miserably in this effort and choose instead to simply be critical of those parts that we consider to be weaker. ¬†Fortunately the ultimate agent of compensation is Christ himself, as he bears all of our weaknesses and brokenness, and does a redeeming act of making us all whole again in God’s eyes.

At the same time I am reflecting on our call to HEAR the Word of God. I wonder how often we grow accustomed to having impaired hearing in our hearts and souls. I wonder how easily we can get used to not hearing the sounds of God’s voice that we should be hearing. Taking a hearing test and then trying out hearing aids that make up for my impaired hearing makes me realize anew just how much I was missing. Occasionally there are experiences in life that serve the same function for our hearts. While they can be uncomfortable, even unbearable, I am reminded of just how important those experiences can be. As I once again enjoy the sounds of crickets, birds and cicadas I’m left wondering what whispers and murmurs from the voice of God I may be missing without even noticing it.

Lord, open my ears that I may hear!

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One Response to “Revitalized Hearing”

I actually have some hearing problems occasionally due to a horrible ear infection. I got my hearing tested by the same lady that had tested Luke a few times years ago as he had tubes put in his ears. I couldn’t believe they could actually test a kid that was only 3 because it isn’t really an easy test. Mom seems to have some hearing loss too. Maybe your experience may motivate her. Frieda has noticed it a lot but most of us are in denial.. glad that you got a better “fit”. Matt’s Dad, Uncle and Grandma all had hearing aids so it might be a problem in his future too. at one time, I went back to the Adult School and I was teaching pronunciation and I couldn’t hear the students. my hearing gradually came back. I had taken some strong ear drops for pain and didn’t realize that a side effect would be temporary or permanent hearing loss. Crazy product!

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