My father’s acute hearing loss has changed the way we communicate.
We’ve lost subtlety. I can’t whisper to him, “Be sure to compliment Mona on her new haircut,” because he won’t hear it. If I shout it loud enough for him to hear, then of course she’ll hear, too.
It’s surprising how many asides we have in a day, little comments and intimacies that are meant for just two, not the entire room.
I used to be able to make my Dad laugh, but it’s really hard to shout a joke or a funny observation. It loses something. Sometimes it comes across as witty, but that’s not the same as funny. Usually it just sounds odd.
He would benefit from a hearing aid, but won’t even consider it because “Hearing aids are for old people.” He’s 88. I suppose “old” is forever “five years older than me.”
Worse, he has become very good at giving the impression that he’s heard. Typically what gives him away is inappropriate laughter at something that wasn’t intended as a joke.
I try to use visual cues. I asked him if he wanted something to drink, and he said “No.” I waited a minute, then held up a pitcher of cherry Kool-Aid and asked again. This time the answer was “Yes.”
I can’t change the reception, so I have to change the transmission.