If you pressed me about what I considered to be the most valuable possession I have, I’d have to say it is friendship. I wouldn’t hesitate.

It isn’t money. I never had any and still don’t. It isn’t influence. I never had any and still don’t. It isn’t power – I don’t even know why that came up. Believe me – if I had power, I’d make a few changes. But, moving on, I can’t imagine life without friends.

That being said, over the past several years, I have experienced a quiet withdrawal from my “normal” active participation in a social life among friends and acquaintances. I can’t say it was unconscious, but it borders on that. I had become aware of how poorly we articulate our words and how seldom we focus on the process of communication – the art of being understood – not just understanding.

I found myself in the paradoxical position of being anxious around friends. It was tiring, frustrating and discouraging. This didn’t happen overnight. It took decades of slowly becoming aware of my disability and adjusting my life to compensate for that. Not altogether unlike a person bound to a wheel chair searching for access.

I have friends, of course, who “get” it and who understand what I need in order to participate in conversation. I also “get” it about others. You don’t change the way adults speak or behave as communicators. Most people do not see themselves as communicators. It is my opinion that most people think that being understood is somebody else’s responsibility. Of course, we know it’s a partnership – a two way street.

I’ve taken steps to treat my hearing loss. Over the years, I have had a half dozen sets of hearing aids, each a little more powerful than the last. In May of 2016 I received a cochlear implant on the left side. I now have frequencies I have not heard for many years. It is not perfect. It will never be perfect. It is better. I am still anxious around friends – wanting to understand and participate. I have a better chance at those goals now than ever.

Advanced Bionics, the maker of the device in my head, have a wonderful web presence. On that site there is a link to a forum called Hearing Journey, which you can find at: https://hearingjourney.com It is a journey. It’s different for everyone. No two stories are alike, but they all share one thing – the desire to understand. Check it out. You would be welcomed.