The place where I live in college is big on parties. Almost every night the sounds of music, commotion, and people talking rushes through my wall into my room. I cannot escape (or, rather, refuse to escape), but it's a good exercise in filtering out irrelevant noise.
But last night - someone's twenty-second birthday. The house is packed and rather drunken. I've had a long week and am off to bed. I walk down the hall, past hordes of people squished together, sloshing their ubiquitous red solo cups. I am about to wash my face in the bathroom and have taken off both my hearing aid and CI. I float in silence. In that state of total deafness, I sink into my usual detachment and amused objectivity. That voice in my mind speaks up wryly; I wonder if any of these people realize how strange they appear from the outside, with the sound turned off, mouths gaping and faces contorted into improbable expressions. I want to laugh, even as I find it slightly grotesque. The uniqueness of my version of reality accompanies me as I weave through the crowd, not caring for any of it now that I cannot hear.
But I can hear, that's what disturbs me most: the music is so loud. It's thundering through my body, the beat sharply defined and harsh. And, in my right ear, in my non-CI ear that still has some residual hearing left, I can hear faint, far-away thrums. They slam into my head like popping, shocking my brain with their brute physical force. (Not so in the left ear, which remains eerily silent, so different from when magnet fastens onto skull - wow, I have become completely dependent on that apparatus.) A group beside me shouts, the song changes. And I hear it. If it's that penetrating and noisy, that even my deafness cannot shut it out, how can it be possible that the people around me are not going deaf themselves?
Except I know they must be. This is too much noise for it to be otherwise. I am reminded of a conversation I had with my auditory therapist earlier this week: just wait a few years. Soon more and more of them will be struggling to hear, to keep up, to understand, and I'll find myself better equipped to cope with hearing loss than any of them. Now, that's ironic.
And, yes, the silence as an escape is nice, but embracing it for the sake of 120 decibels of a pop song? Not worth it. I keep feeling troubled by what hearing people do to themselves. Breathe. Turn the volume down, for your own sake.