I follow a blog written by a woman, Shari Eberts, that is dedicated to issues about living with hearing loss – the name of her blog. I highly recommend it whether or not you have hearing loss. A huge portion of the American population suffers from some degree of hearing loss and among the resulting effects of that loss is isolation, loneliness, even dementia to name a few. Someone you know suffers from treatable hearing loss. Sometimes that untreated hearing loss is profound and it is kept secret for a variety of reasons.

On a recent blog Shari mentioned being on vacation when both of her hearing aids suddenly failed. Her experience was instructive for those of us who are profoundly deaf and depend on technology to relate to the world. The following is my response to her blog.

Shari, I can’t think of a more unsettling experience than to be on vacation and loose hearing. As others have reported, removing my “appliances” at night plunges me into complete sound darkness. Every night as I prepare to go silent, I am reminded that I AM DISABLED! For years I resisted that truth largely because my HAs kept me in he normal range of performance – even to appreciate music! Then one day before I inserted my little instruments I realized I could not hear the water as I filled the coffee pot. I thought, “I’m not just hearing impaired – I’m deaf!”

Your comment about feeling at risk when deaf and out on the street was instructive. Without auditory clues the mystery of our environment goes unsolved. Even with all the technology hanging on my head, I often find myself in situations where I feel challenged just to know what’s happening. Quite honestly, it’s frightening to consider what it would be like without my instruments.

There are several places on-line where people with some degree of hearing loss share their experiences and advise with each other. There is a dedicated FaceBook group that you can join. then there is a forum that is produced by Advanced Bionics, a leading maker of cochlear Implant technology and the maker of the device I use. The forum is called Hearing Journey and can be joined by anyone with an interest in hearing loss and it’s treatment. Hearing Journey (HJ) can be accessed through the Advanced Bionics web site – www.acvancedbionics.com.

There is a time every day when I experience total deafness. I remove my hearing aid and the external sound processor component of my cochlear implant when I go to sleep. I have slept through violent thunder storms and ringing phones. My watch has a vibrating alarm feature that can wake me. There are other safety items that I am installing but the point is this: coming to grips with what can only be described as a severe physical disability has taken most of a year – how much more difficult must it be for others to realize? Hearing loss / deafness is an invisible disability.

There is a famous photograph, which you may know, by Paul
Strand. It is of a street person standing against a building with a sign around her neck with the word “BLIND” written in block letters. Her eyes are vacant and obviously useless. Even without the sign her condition would be clear.

But how would you know if someone were deaf? A sign hanging around the neck would be a dead giveaway. I’l’ll talk about that in a future post. Meanwhile, what do you think? What are the clues someone might reveal that would signal a hearing deficiency?

In a weak moment about a month ago I ordered and paid for the complete book of Bob Dylan’s lyrics. I mean, how many guitar thumping, harmonica blowers ever won the Nobel Prize? It’s a huge thing. The guy wrote more than is in the Talmud, it seems. Over 650 pages. The book weighs four pounds and four ounces!

The thing about Dylan’s songs is that no matter how you sing his words it’s OK. He wasn’t much of a vocalist but that was his thing. Or, at least it became his thing. I actually saw him in Houston. It was during his Christian period. I was sitting high and to his right. It was a remarkably uninspired performance. But what do I know – that might have been my problem. His genius was in the writing. A lot or song writers had their moments back then – he had a generation.

These days we have comedians. People are still dying by the thousands and we have comedians. Is it so bad that we can’t look at it anymore?

Don’t give me too much credit. It’s easy too write about this stuff. When Dylan was writing and performing the words that have now become part of our national lexicon, I was searching for meaning in a forest of religious irrelevance. I did find that I had a knack for helping people find their way through some dark patch in their journey. That was my contribution while all around me the times were indeed a changin. Hell, Woodstock was in the history books before I even knew about it.

When I read his words – not that easy without the phrasing or his voice – I am able to feel the anxiety of the age. His voice was the voice of a generation who felt cut off from their own time in history.

Anyway, my daily dose of Dylan seems right for me right now. I’m not sure how long this will last. Four pounds of lyrics is a lot. I may have to balance it out with a few ounces of The Captain and Tennille.

I love recipes. Actually I love to eat and a recipe is just a road map to a meal.

Over my lifetime, attitudes toward making a meal have gone through several stages. When I first became aware of a meal being prepared, my mother was doing it. The kitchen was the gathering place in my boyhood home. It was large by today’s standards. Our dining table was in corner of the kitchen and that was the focus point for conversation as well as eating.

My mother cooked from raw and unprocessed ingredients. Almost nothing was prepared in a box or or in a can. Now and then she did open a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle soup which she liked and which we ate. My memories of that consists mostly of salt.

My maternal grandfather lived next door and was a lifelong farmer. Even though he worked full time at Standard Oil, he cultivated as many as four full sized lots in our neighborhood. He grew everything and enough of it that we ate out of the garden the entire year. Unprocessed ingredients!

When I married and left home, barely post-pubescent, my new wife could boil water if she was careful. My mother took her under her wing and in time she was an excellent cook. This was happening in he 50s when we were being brainwashed by black and white TV that kept telling us that the modern cook would have it easy in the age of prepared or semi prepared boxed and canned foods. I remember it as being the age of Cream of Mushroom soup which was never consumed as actual soup.

The standard weeknight dinner was something in a casserole dish with a can or two of Cream of Mushroom soup poured over it and baked. For company we added tortilla chips and cloth napkins. It was a matter of homemaking faith that you could mix some Cream of Mushroom soup with a sack of marbles and it would be quite tasty. Throw in a hand full of Fritos and it was Fiesta time!!

We were not in the 50s anymore, Toto.

Slowly we came to our senses lead by an army of nutritionists, food police and oncologists, all waiving flags on which were the words: EAT RIGHT OR DIE! All at once we were seeing menus that included Cajun style antioxidants and green tea.

I shudder to shake off the confusion spread by food writers and gastronomical pundits who seem to latch onto any recent “study” that shows some trend or remote connection between drinking coffee or eating raw cabbage and long life or clear skin or whatever. In my humble opinion if you make dinner from raw and unprocessed ingredients you can’t go wrong. My boyhood diet: eggs and bacon at breakfast, white bread sandwiches for school lunch and rice and gravy at supper – well maybe there was a pork chop in there – is, from time to time still resurrected in our house as a tribute to truth, tradition and the American Way.

Ding Dong – it’s dinner time.

Sometimes I’m just overcome with a wave of thankfulness. It’s easy when you think about it. Big things like the roof over my head, fair health, adaquate good food – you get the picture.

What got me going this morning was not the big stuff but those items that are sort of invisible in our daily lives. Take soap, for instance. When I was a boy, my mother, Ruby Lee, was a big fan of Ivory. She liked that it floated. Easy to find in the bath. She bought into the corporate jargon that it was so pure that it floated. I doubt that purity had anything to do with it. Anyway it was a mainstay in our home for years until Lifeboy came along. I loved the tangy scent and it was tangy enough to overcome whatever body oder that might arise during a hot summer’s day. And it was red. That had to count for somethiing.

Today I like Dial, “Don’t you wish everybody did?” It has the pleasant but not overpowering scent of clover. The antibacterial bar has been around since the 40s. I even like it’s shape. It has dints and curves in places that meke the bar easy to hold as it moulds around various parts of the body.

I am specially fond of the depression on the imprinted side that is a just right place in which to press a nearly used sliver. I mean, I’m thankful for that. What an idea!

Look at it this way: If I can be thankful for a bar of soap, I can be thankful for almost anything. That’s got to be a positive thing, don’t you think? These days, I need more positives in my life. Thankfulness probably helps.

May 6 will be the one year anniversary of my cochlear implant surgery. It seems like it was just last week, but isn’t that always the case?

I have never experienced anything as life changing as this. (Well getting married the first time would qualify, but you know what I mean.) It’s not just learning how to manage the device but also the trips to the hospital in Boston for programing and learning. It has truly been an adventure.

Progress was slow in coming. I started off understanding some speech but there was little improvement for several months. Then things started to happen as I noticed sounds I was not used to hearing and we were able to “clean” up the device’s performance – searching for a purer sound.

Carol Ann, my partner in life, has a voice that has been surprisingly difficult to understand, even with the implant. After my last adjustment or mapping, things took a leap forward and we can now have meaningful conversations in most environments. Some restaurants and driving together are no longer situations non-gratis. We are thrilled about this.

Group conversations can still be a challenge and many public places are still out of bounds. The telephone is still troubling – depending on the voice on the other end. Even TV is better, but BlueTooth helps with the addition of the RemoteMic and an audio looped room for the T-Coil.

There are remaining tweaks and dedicated programs to be tried out but all in all this is a happy anniversary. There might even be a cookie somewhere.

Thanks to all my friends for your encouragement and understanding. Thanks to my friends on the Hearing Journey Forum who graciously listened to my whining and complaining and whose advise, encouragement and judgement have been invaluable.

I believe there is a new year ahead. I’ll hear you there.

The rumor is this, older people have issues around getting enough quality sleep. It’s actually more than a rumor. I know this because I am older and I have trouble getting enough quality sleep. Talk about science.

It used to be that I usually got a good night’s sleep and once in a while I’d toss and turn all night to wake up tired and cranky. Now that ratio has turned around 180˚. Since I am retired and don’t have to “be there” at 8 o’clock in the morning I try not to make too much of it – unsuccessfully, I might add. And therein lies the rub.

Years ago I participated, briefly, in an on-line discussion group for seniors. That was back when I was learning how to be one. Almost immediately it became apparent that an overwhelming majority of the participants were insomniacs. One night I had one of my wee-hour wake-ups and decided to check out the group. They were all there! I asked if anybody slept at night. Generally, the answer was “No”.

The consensus was don’t lay there and fight it – get up and do something you enjoy doing. Call a friend four time zones west of you. Sitka, perhaps. There’s the internet, of course. Read that book that kept you awake too long in the first place. Mop the floor. Eat cake. Get sleepy and go to bed. If only …

Now I have this pregnant robin who spends hours every day banging her head on my window. I just knew she was going to break her neck or beak or whatever. I finally got my loppers out and cut the branch she perched on – – so far so good. I thought I’d outlast her but she finally got the best of me. That’s when I realized that eating cake at 3 AM is not as crazy as banging my head against the wall of sleeplessness.

IT FELT JUST LIKE SUMMER ON THE OCEAN TODAY. That’s quite the happening on Easter Sunday near the 44th parallel. I have never seen so many people at Wolf Neck as there were today. Bare legs and arms bleached from winter’s darkness hanging out in springtime sunshine and soft, warm ocean breezes. Pinch me – am I dreaming?

When we returned home, there were Easter Baskets to open, sent from the Florida branch and in particular the newest of the clan – the Ethiopians. One basket addressed to Grandma B and the other sent to Grandpa Jerry. Out of respect for these lovely children – and for no other reason, as I normally avoid those abominable things – I ate a chocolate dipped Peep. I have to admit, it was good! Actually it was fantastic. I never cease to be amazed at the pure transformative joy a little chocolate can produce. There is another one, of course, but it will have to wait for desert time tonight.

Since CA and I are many miles from family, we could find little reason not to indulge ourselves with a couple of nice fresh Maine lobsters for our supper. A small spring salad, baked potato and a bottle of good Chablis from the cellars at Bow Street Market will round things out. Such indulgences do not replace family but do a pretty damned good job as a placeholder until someone shows up.

Tee shirts and sock-less sandals, walkers, joggers and cyclists everywhere. I even heard a motorcycle blast by a moment ago. It ain’t daffodils but the signs of the season of growth and harvest are at hand.

I’ll resist putting up the deck umbrella today. Maybe tomorrow. – after checking the forecast.

Last evening, CA and I were enjoying a pre-supper appetizer along with an adult libation. She was dipping her favorite little puffy crackers into some spicy hummus and I was having a few slices of my favorite blue cheese on a Ritz, “Everything tastes better on a Ritz”. I mentioned that I had made some hummus from scratch a few years ago. She didn’t seem too impressed. Nevertheless, that thought lifted a rock somewhere in the backyard of my mind from under which crawled all these recollections of those times in my life when I felt that the essence of personhood consisted mainly of the practice of making it from scratch – doing it myself.

The modern D.I.Y. movement is, I believe, the attempt by modern humans to get in touch with the default human activity of making it yourself. Until very recently, everything was the product of a do-it-yourself effort. When it comes to making it yourself, I am a transitional figure. My childhood took place in the 30s when everything that appeared on the dinner table, for example, was made from scratch. Grocery shopping consisted of ingredient shopping. Mr. Galina would dip his scoop into the rice barrel, the flour barrel, the pickle barrel and yes – there was an actual cracker barrel. There was very little in the way of graphic art and packaging to misslead the appetite.

I can remember my stomach flip-flopping as I eyed all those wonderful edibles just lying in a glass case, barrel or big glass jar waiting to be scooped up, put in a paper bag for me to take home around the corner. It’s been a while since my stomach did anything like that in a modern market.

I have to smile as I remember when I first moved to Maine – the quintessential homemade state – that among the first things I wanted to do was to make cheese. That was over 35 years ago and I still can’t recall why I thought that making cheese would define life in paradise. Purchasing a little bottle of rennet was as far as I got.

I’ve been making bread for years. I am fairly competent at it. I remember once when a friend of mine asked me after she sampled my Anadama, “You made this with your hands?” I looked at my hands and showed them to her and said, “Yep, it was these two that did it.” She had this quizzical expression on her face that seemed to say, “I’m trying to decide whether or not you are jerking me around”. I was, of course. Poor thing – she was a sliced Wonder Bread baby.

One more thing: I get funny looks when I talk about one of my favorite homemade meals – rice and gravy. I just had a little for my breakfast. About half a cup of leftover jasmine rice that I made myself. Well I suppose I should say my Tatung rice cooker did it. But I could have done it. I stirred into the rice a dollop of my hand made roux based gravy that is so good that on occasion it has made people forget their names and addresses.

I’ll admit that it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but, if it was, they would be better people. I usually make enough of it to freeze and have along the way as needed. If truth be known, and it should, of course, a little gravy is always needed.


The crew we hired to come in showed up Wednesday morning and began taking out damaged and and other trees suspected as potential threats to our house, and hauling them off. This needed to be done as a matter of safety and survival. It had to be done. Yet there was a sadness watching them fall.

Watching these men work was a marvel of competence and coordination. What they accomplished in a matter of hours would have taken me the rest of my life – even if I had the ability I once had, or imagine I had.

I can live with the departing pine trees that threatened our home, but loosing a beautiful maple, also near the house, that I had watched grow from 8“ across at the base to over 15”, was sad indeed. At least that wood will warm us next winter with memories of its beauty as well as the energy that beauty contained. I loved that tree.

I am not a “tree hugger”, but I do value trees as givers and sustainers of life. Add to that their truly lyrical beauty and there is enough reason there to have them for their own sake. There need not be some branding as a commodity to demonstrate their value. Also I heat with wood and I have wood products in my home and I love living among trees. And I have a chainsaw and an axe, neither of which are my favorite tools

A stand of pine or hardwood is not “undeveloped” land. It’s just what it is supposed to be. There are those among us, I fear, who would “harvest” (an interesting connotation that one would usually find while discussing, for instance, the harvesting of beets) every marketable tree on the planet for money.

I lived in the south for half of my life. There you can grow longleaf pine to profitable size in about 40 – 50 years. If pulp is the object I believe that number is somewhat lower. Paper companies and others have thousands of acres planted all in neat rows evenly spaces so as to allow machinery to come in at the proper time and “harvest” them. This is an industry and it produces a product, employs many workers. And none of those trees threaten our house. Think dollars not Joyce Kilmer’s “I think I shall never see / a poem as lovely as a tree”.

But that’s exactly what I thought about that beautiful maple that split and had to be taken down. Obviously it was damaged beyond repair. Obviously it needed to be taken down. And so a lovely poem died.

Back in the late 1980s, I began to suspect that my hearing was suspect. I went to an audiologist and had a hearing test. Her report was that I was borderline, but still in the ‘green zone’ and did not need immediate help. I now know that understanding is the backbone of hearing loss. If I was having problems understanding then that needed to be addressed. I have always been able to hear things, but understanding had fallen off precipitously over the years.

Things came to a head one week when I was house sitting for friends. I was watching a movie in their bedroom from their bed on my last night there and the next day they were to return from their trip. The movie was GUNG HO. It was a propaganda piece designed to give the folks at home a good feeling after the historic disaster at Perl Harbor.

I got a call the following day when I was told that I had a serious hearing problem. What do you mean, was my reply. It seems that when they got into their bed, that first night after their return, they decided to take in a little TV. The volume blasted them out the window. They didn’t understand why the neighbors didn’t call the cops on me.

The theory goes that if I needed such volume to hear my movie then there was a problem. Furthermore, I had just taken a job at LLBean where I needed accurate hearing skills to perform. It just wasn’t going to work unless I got help.

I arranged for a hearing test at which time I found that I was seriously impaired and needed serious hearing assistance. That’s when I began to wear hearing aids. That was 20 years ago. Hearing loss doesn’t get better over time – it always gets worse. And, it’s understanding that counts. If you don’t understand what you are hearing, you are hearing impaired. It’s as simple as that. Get help.