One of the last things I shared before going into our Easter holiday was: “I will now take a short break, but I will be back in your ear before you know it.”
Famous last words.
I had a bunch of brilliant guests lined up for interviews and was ready to take a two week’s break from publishing to my podcast, maximum. What happened instead was not according to “The Great Plan”.
In an earlier episode I quoted Bill Burnett: “No plan for your life will survive first contact with reality”. This last week has shown me exactly that.
The revenge of the lazy immune system
This is what happened. Along with the holiday came the typical cold with running noses, fever and sneezing. Plans had to be changed and most of Easter was spent inside. Bad luck, but no big surprise. The big surprise came as the holiday was coming to an end and the rest of the family recovered.
I did not.
It might be the fact that I haven’t used my immune system much during the last two years. Maybe it’s gotten lazy and totally out of shape. My cold escalated to sinusitis – you know when you feel like your head is going to explode and touching your face is pure pain. Then it moved on to the ears. And then I woke up one morning – and the whole world was silent.
I didn’t hear a thing. Well, maybe 20%. But that meant no doorbell, no birds, no radio, no TV, no voices on a Zoom call. I couldn’t hear my children talking if they weren’t standing right in front of me. That was the worst part.
I have to admit, I haven’t really thought about how it would be to lose the ability to hear. And it came as a big shock to me. I felt so trapped, so isolated, so helpless and sometimes in total panic. And to add to that panic; when everything else was silenced, my local tinnitus orchestra started playing at full blast. I have always thought that tinnitus was this high pitched ringing, but wow – it was so much more! It was airconditioners, hammers, lawn movers….even my neighbor talking. Except it was in the middle of the night and there was no neighbor in sight. It’s both horrible and quite fascinating how the brain somehow creates all these noises that seem so real.
I just read that about 15-20% of us suffer from this to some degree. I don’t know a lot about this topic, but for me it was very clear that the brain was filling in the gaps, it replaced the missing sounds with something else. One day I heard a whole song on the radio with the news taking over when the song was finished, with the jingle and everything. When I went to turn off the radio, I discovered it had been off the whole time. It was my brain playing that song. How strange is that?
An unfamiliar bubble
At the moment of writing this, it seems I’m on my way to start hearing again. Although progress is much slower than I would prefer. I have seen the doctor, got medicine for ear infection, and got reassured – more than once – that this isn’t permanent. But honestly, I have been really scared that I wouldn’t be able to hear normally again. I have gone through what that would mean for everything in my life, and believe me – those thoughts weren’t pleasant!
I have gotten to experience a reality I knew nothing about, I entered into a very different bubble (in more than one way). And it got me to think about how I always talk about bursting bubbles and being open to other people’s reality, and how difficult that really is. I think it’s almost impossible to deeply understand other people’s situation until you have literally been in their shoes.
And there we might actually have one of the biggest reasons we are so slow to change our way of living, consuming, polluting and damaging the planet. We see the dangers and how people are affected, but the reality is really hard to grasp when we are not directly hit ourselves.
Every experience can be valuable if we learn something from it, right? So what have this week in silence taught me?
Well, first of all: the world is so much bleaker without sound. The thought of losing this sense has made me appreciate it so much more. I love sound! Music, voices, birds, the ocean, laughter…..And I realize I haven’t paid enough attention to this before. This experience has definitely changed me.
Secondly; without being able to hear, communication is very hard. And communication is key to everything. When everything is back to normal I will speak and listen like never before.
And last, but not least; more than 5% of the world’s population suffer from disabling hearing loss, and this number is expected to rise to 10% by 2050.
I work with sound. Podcast is my favorite medium. But when I don’t make my podcast universally available, I shut so many people out. Talk about creating a bubble! Transcripts, here I come!
I’ll be back!
As my dear podcasting mentor, Regina Larko says; listening is magic. Watch her beautiful TEDx talk, and you will see what she means. I can’t wait to get back to the state where I can enjoy the magic of listening. Hopefully very soon, and then I will definitely be back in your ears with new episodes of Stories for the future!
Go out today and listen to all the sounds you are surrounded by. Don’t take them for granted. And please – take care of your ears!