On the Level

The “cheap” level I purchased this weekend.

We recently moved to reduce my husband’s daily commute from 3 hours to 10 minutes. In moving, things are often “lost”. A phrase often heard in our house lately has been “It’ll turn up!” Although cheerfully voiced and repeated with conviction, over the last 6 weeks there have been some items that have not turned up. One such item was the “level”. It was a really nice level too – approximately 18 inches long and very well made. I know that Home Depot advertises these digital gadgets that use an infra-red beam to determine – “level” – but I want something I can wrap my arms around and move around as if I need a hard hat and knowledge of construction! I have neither… but I like the illusion!

Anyway – I digress…

In the move, my husband and 20-year-old son put together a new T.V. stand for our 42-inch flat screen. The first time I sat down to watch a taped “favorite” I knew something was wrong.

“Umm… honey? The screen is crooked” I announced with confidence.

Terry did get up to stand in front of the T.V. with a critical eye, but explained with some assurance in tone and stance that, “It isn’t crooked. It’s fine!”

I gave him one of THOSE looks. You know the kind where you don’t actually SAY anything, but yet SAID a lot?

“Besides”, he teased, “how can YOU say whether or not anything is crooked or straight?”

“My world may revolve, but it isn’t skewed,” I retorted.

Over the next 3 weeks I continued to insist the screen was crooked. I watch very little television and what I watch is usually a taped show. When I sat to watch a taped cooking show or “Bones”, I didn’t want to have to turn my head to watch it “straight”. I was starting to let my frustration show that I seemed to be the only one who noticed the screen was crooked. Determined to prove my own “sense of level”, I went in search of our – erm – level.

It’s very frustrating to go through every nook and cranny of a new home looking for something you clearly remember packing and not finding the item! While picking up a few things at Wal-mart this weekend I got my husband’s attention as I headed for the hardware section. “I’m getting a cheap level,” I announced with NO ROOM for argument. He rolled his eyes but followed Chloe and I to the hardware department.

Ignorance is Bliss

When we got home, Terry and I unpacked the Wal-mart bags. I was busy in the kitchen when I caught sight of him in the family room standing in front of the T.V. He was putting the level on the television stand and then the T.V., all the while looking very thoughtful. I walked over to see if my sense of “level” could be trusted.

“It’s crooked,” he admitted with some surprise.

I tried very hard not to crow, for I’ve never done “chicken” very well. “Yes, honey. Do you think you can fix it? It is driving me bananas!”

“Oh sure I can fix it, but I’ll need Chris’s help. I’ll get it done this week,” he promised.

Do you know that over the last 2 days I have caught Terry standing in front of the T.V. numerous times with his head tilted? Ignorance is bliss. Now that he KNEW it was crooked, it seemed to exasperate him as well. The T.V. hasn’t MOVED or been ADJUSTED, yet now it seemed to really distract Terry too.

What “Bugs” Me, May Not “Bug” You

If you follow this blog because you have an invisible disability or service dog you will recognize a theme that often shows up here. No two disabilities are the same. Even folks with hearing loss have differences that make their hearing loss – or “hearing again” unique. I have become “pen pals” of a sort with numerous people who have Meniere’s disease. Yet I have never discovered any one individual who has exactly the same triggers as I. Through Fidos For Freedom, I have met a number of individuals with Multiple Sclerosis, mobility issues, deaf or hard-of-hearing, suffer from fibromyalgia, or other invisible “enemies”. I have learned that what may “bug” me may have no influence on someone else who may have a similar disability.We are as unique as our disability and abilities. I for one, like it that way. Something may look “crooked” to me and in need of straightening, but it may actually be fine to someone else.

I think we have to be very careful about assuming that every individual with a similar disability lives life the same way – experiencing the same frustrations and triumphs. The late-deafened crowd can be very bad about this as hearing loss is not “one size fits all”. Frequency, pitch, and decibel levels are all experienced differently by folks with hearing loss. Those of us who use cochlear implants and/or hearing aids may not experience the same benefit as another whose audiogram may look very similar. A listening environment may be very difficult for me because of the level of background noise, but you may be able to tune out things very easily with a specific “map” of your own CI.

Yesterday in church I experienced a painful reminder that what is “level” for one person may not be “level” at all for me. After church, the organist plays a piece of music as everyone leaves. People do a quick “catch up” with those around them or greet newcomers. Can I be honest a moment and say that it is all I can do not to wince when the organist begins to play? I try hard to control my expression, but I found myself gripping my hands together as I tried to make out the voices around me while my CI picked up the organ music loud and clear and deciphered the sound as best it could. I felt the hair on my neck stand up and …

I didn’t even know I had hair on my neck!

A plan of action is needed… I’m going to turn my CI off immediately after the service and just read lips.

If I tried to explain to someone else with hearing loss, they may not understand what the problem is and do just fine in that listening environment. As a matter of fact, I have noted a number of hearing aids in ears around me in the auditorium. They aren’t snatching the technology off from behind their ears and running from the auditorium screaming like a maniac. As I inwardly “shackled” my own maniac I couldn’t help but wonder how they did it. How can this surround-sound, swelling noise be ignored while they focused on actual voices around them?


What was “crooked” to me was “on the level” for them. No adjustment necessary! We really have to remember that. I think it all boils down to:

1. Learn to communicate your needs clearly so others may adjust to best help.

2. Respect another individual’s choices and decisions made to find true accessibility.

Sometimes not much can be done to “straighten” what is crooked. Then our responsibility changes. I hope I can be gracious and accepting about things that cannot be “fixed” or “changed” to best meet my hearing and balance needs.

Denise Portis

© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

2 thoughts on “On the Level

  1. ROFL…I can’t help but think of the banter between you and Terry. Even Steph and I have those its “crooked-like” moments (or most like its “too big” or “too short”, etc). And in reality, its the same frustration when I try to communicate my hearing loss to others. Even my wife sometimes forgets I am deaf…imagine THAT banter! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I think you are not the only one who has difficulty with the sound of an organ. Even people without a hearing disorder can be irritated by its sound. My Menieres disease causes me to have great difficulty with the organ and my father-in-law who had menieres too couldn’t stand it. It made him dizzy on the spot. I am so glad we found a great church with modern music and no organ! 🙂

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