Everyone Covered Their Lips, Now I Can’t Hear

A subtle loss of hearing became severe when everyone masked up

First, I want to start this off by saying I believe in staying physically distant. I isolated myself behind a stop sign for months. I fundamentally agree with wearing masks. I wear one.

When I have had my mask on for any period of time, my pulse races, I became easily angered and I get very frustrated. I would rather go home and make a video call with earbuds in my ears.

According to the National Institute on Aging, one in three adults between 65-75 and more than half of people over 75 experience hearing loss. I was quite shocked to read that 23% of my age group, ages 50-59 experience noticeable hearing loss.

I have known that I had some hearing loss for a while. I even know what it is from–far too much time spent in my twenties dancing next to speaker stacks twice my height. The music I cranked to 11 in my earphones, long before earbuds were invented, most certainly also contributed. But my hearing loss had not caused me much of a distraction besides a need to do funny things like buying stereo earbuds for phone conversations. Well, I assumed I hadn’t done anything differently.

When the COVID-19 virus measures began, I was given a cute pansy mask. I loved the material. It was breathable cotton and it was a cute fabric. If I had to “hide” behind something, that would work. Besides, with it on, no one could tell I didn’t have my teeth in!

Photo by Jamie Meidl

Being unable to understand what most people are saying with masks on, with a combination of the muffling from the material and my hearing loss, has been exhausting. I would rather stay at home. I am fortunate, most of the time I do not have to venture outside of my home. I can send my caregiver out to get things. I have the ability to stay home most of the time. Like everyone else though, I get cabin fever.

My dislike of my mouth being covered began to grow worse over the weeks and months that it has been required. Today, I asked my therapist about the paradigm. Trauma memories indicated my mouth and nose had been covered during such, causing a post-traumatic effect around the sensation. I am not alone in this. Not by a long shot.

However, I am one of a large number of disabled people who know that if we are exposed to the COVID-19 virus, we most probably will die. This is not something to take lightly.

When I put out onto Twitter a post about masks, a disabled Producer for KSL in Utah, Shelby Hintze, suggested a unique idea, “I want the threat of business licenses being revoked ala liquor laws if a business isn’t enforcing mask rules.”

Due to her own susceptibility, she has barely been able to leave her home since this entire thing began due to those people who CAN wear masks, refusing to do so. I empathize with her situation and personally don’t agree that any liquor license should be used at this point in time, regardless of masks. The thought of alcohol-impaired thinking in people, when more intelligence than ever is required to navigate the world safely is horrifying.

I am a member of a large community of disabled people who have been frightened since the beginning of this situation, because of rumors of ruthless practices of unrighteous and illegal care rationing. The information war on hope is full of memes and links to studies and we are all in the crosshairs.

Each time we choose to bully someone else about a mask or about their personal body choices, we are holding the proverbial gun. I see a world turning on one another at a time when we need to be more compassionate than ever for one another. It breaks my heart.

My heart – My youngest grandchild (she has a sibling due in December) has only been able to visit once since February – with a mask

This virus came as the 30th anniversary of the Americans for Disabilities Act began and it has highlighted our FAILED inclusion of people with disabilities as well as our utter failure to educate our population that being different is okay and should NOT BE FATAL.

Recently, I watched a video from a man who lives a bit south of me in Portland. Although this man uses a powerchair and has significant disabilities that affect his ability to mask, he lives independent. Because he uses no caregiver to run errands, he has felt a significant change for the negative in his ability level just due to this virus!

I am more than a bit horrified by the personal liberties of disabled people that have been blanketly abolished. That is fundamentally wrong. We need to do much better.

The fact that mask rules and suggestions are being used as another form of bullying on BOTH sides of the political aisle is fundamentally frightening. The affects the isolation has taken on our personalities as a nation shows we are suffering from a systemic trauma. The million second shoe effect. They are dropping on our heads, and we are yelling at one another online and in-person about it. Seriously, please stop yelling. And stay out of cold, wet places, those things seem to spread it faster.

Can we find a way to be kind to one another? In our differences? Within our fears? I don’t think so. I believe we need to have more than fear–I believe we need HOPE. I believe we need to understand that everything happens for a reason. We WILL get through this. Then, just maybe, we can start being human to one another.

I hope we get through this together with much less contention. I can hope. In the meantime, I’m having a friend teach me American Sign Language.

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