Our ears and brains have worked together for so many years that we're able to do a multitude of things simultaneously. Multitasking while watching a TV show, listening to an iPod, reading a magazine, and engaging in casual conversation -- things an ordinary person can do without thought. Things I used to do, too. It's easy to take hearing and listening for granted.
But I'm not exactly ordinary anymore. Even with a cochlear implant, my listening comprehension is pretty bad by "normal hearing" standards. Hearing is a passive activity for most people. It seamlessly and effortlessly blends in with all the other things that busy our lives. They don't even know they're doing it. It's that automatic. But my hearing isn't so passive anymore. I have to focus and actively attend to the listening task.
Hearing is the easy part. With my CI and hearing aid, I can hear quite a lot of things. It's the understanding that takes so much effort now. Having been an accomplished multitasker before I lost my hearing, I am continually frustrated now by how hard it has become to hold a simple conversation in my house. It takes a lot of brain power just to hear, let alone understand.
Distractions abound. Not just for me, but for others, as well. Trying to talk to me while you're washing dishes, sifting through mail, shuffling through the room, flipping through the TV channels, eating a sandwich, even interrupting me while I'm engaged in other activities to ask or tell me something is pretty much a recipe for a comprehension disaster. Ambient noise is a huge problem, and deciphering voices and words from that noise can be arduous. My attention to a task-at-hand has become incredibly focused since my hearing loss -- and I'm not so good at multitasking anymore. I need people to give me some wait-time, so I can switch my attention from one task to their conversation. No one can assume I've heard or understood any part of the conversation without that wait-time. Not even me.
I'm not the only one who gets frustrated.
"It's not like we mind repeating ourselves," my daughter explains. "But after the third or fourth time, it's just not worth it, especially when it really isn't important." That's why I get the dreaded "nevermind" so often, she tells me.
There are things all of us could do to make it better. I don't know why we don't. Change is hard.