What I Hear

Life with hearing loss

Summer Vacation From Hearing

Leaving the noisy world behind for a while.

Summer is nice for lots of reasons, but for people with hearing loss, it's a vacation not only from work, or meetings, or daily obligations but from the effort of hearing.

I've just started my vacation, at a house in Western Massachusetts that I spend time in all year long. Although the rest of the year I'm out and about and part of the local community, in August I retreat to the house and my garden. Too many tourists in town, too many people in the restaurants, too many traffic jams and impatient drivers at the area's many summer cultural offerings.

But up here five miles out of town, it's pretty quiet. And for once I can hear what people say. I visited a neighbor today and we sat in her yard and took a dip in her pool. She's a New York friend and I have a very hard time hearing her at social events and at the dog run, where we often meet. But sitting by her pool, with a view over the Berkshires, I heard every word she said. We had a conversation!

In the garden, I can basically turn off my hearing and focus on the sun, the warm summery smells, the task of giving the flowers and vegetables some breathing room by yanking out the chickweed that seems rampant this year.

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Dinner on our screened porch with my husband, the cicadas as background music, is also a time for conversation.

Alas, when we retreat from the chill into the kitchen—my design!—with its cathedral ceiling and beautiful bare wood floors, his voice bounces up and around and down and up again and I can't hear a thing.

But tomorrow we'll have breakfast on the porch, and instead of cicadas the morning birds will cheep and chirp, and except for the occasional passing car (boy, are they noisy), it will be blissful acoustic heaven.

Katherine Bouton, a former editor at The New York Times, is the author of Shouting Won't Help: Why I—and 50 Million Other Americans—Can't Hear You.

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