So … I’m Losing My Hearing or On Living Fast and Dying Young

Nobody freak out, though. It’s fine. I’ll probably, and I don’t mean to be morbid, but just, you know, statistically speaking, based on my, shall we say, “complex” medical situation, I’ll probably be dead long before I need a hearing aid or anything. I’ve made my peace with that too. There’s just stuff going with my body that doesn’t exactly draw a smiley face on an actuarial table. It’s OK. It’s not a crisis. Well, I guess it is on some level, but I digress. Nothing is presently emergent, is what I mean to say. The end is coming, but it doesn’t seem to be nigh.

Anyways, pending this, that, and the other I should be starting a new job in a couple of weeks and they sent me for an audiogram the other day. The way the test runs, I kind of knew I was missing tones. The tones come through the headphones in a sort of pattern and I think they adjust the frequency up and down to get a good fix on your hearing. So, the tones, especially the higher pitched ones, would get quieter and quieter until I couldn’t hear them and then they’d come back up and stop. At any rate, at the higher frequencies, I’m out of the “your hearing is normal” range. I wasn’t surprised. Actually, in a weird way, it was kind of nice to get confirmation of something I’d suspected for a while. And on the ever-growing list of my maladies, frankly, hearing loss does not rank that high. The bummer is, over time, the hearing loss works its way down into the middle frequencies where you’d probably notice it more. But hey, I’m not really trying to listen to that many people anymore anyways!

I’ve had tinnitus bad enough to know I had tinnitus for a few years and I’m well aware I haven’t exactly been gentle on my ears in this lifetime. I drove trucks (not like you see on the highway, more like a Tonka Truck-type thing) in the Marine Corps for four years and went to school for that on an Army base. The Army guys had to wear ear plugs any time the trucks were running, including all the time they were driving, but once I got off that base, I never saw an ear plug in the motor pool again. I’ve shot a lot recreationally too, but I always wore good plugs or muffs for that, so I’m not sure how bad that was for my hearing. I’ve had lots of industrial jobs, though, and, as much as you’re supposed to wear ear plugs on the line, it’s like, you know, hard to hear with those things. You need to be able to hear machine alarms, the intercom, and, lots of times, other people talking to you. Sure, you could take your plugs in and out every time you need to hear something, but it’s a lot more convenient to just sort of rest them in your ears instead of rolling them up and sticking them in the right way. That way, if a boss walks by, it looks like you’re following the rules, but you can still hear everything you need to and you don’t have to take your plugs in and out just to hear someone tell you “we’re changing over.” It’s possible my hearing loss is genetic and therefore unavoidable, but even environmental factors can aggravate that kind too and if I had to point the finger at a primary culprit, I’d be looking squarely at music.

I used to go to a ton of concerts, mostly extreme metal, and get in the pit a fair amount of the time, and let me tell you, it’s loud up there. The band members aren’t the only ones who should be wearing ear plugs at those things. But I also have this thing, probably related to this other thing I have, where I play music WAY too loud in the car. I’m not talking like your-mom-would-never-put-up-with-this loud, either. I’m talking turn-it-up-until-there-is-no-doubt-you-have-reached-the-functional-capacity-of-the-stereo-system loud. Like, just ridiculously loud. The kind of loud that, if you ever do it when another person’s in the car with you, causes them to turn to you and exclaim “You’re crazy!” To which, I can only respond with Tom Cruise’s best line in Risky Business, “Sometimes, you just gotta say ‘What the fuck?’”

Going through life with that motto is clearly not healthy. It’s fun, I won’t let anyone take that away from me. And it sure feels good to throw a middle finger up at conformity, society, and whatever else. I think that’s why I smoked for so long. Yeah, I know it’s bad for me, but, “Fuck you.” Every time I lit up, it was a tiny act of rebellion. This chain of thoughts has me pondering the value of living fast and dying young. Because the question that keeps popping into my head after this hearing test is “Was it worth it?”

I’ve been thinking that’s probably not the right question though, because how can you go back and be different person? You know, you face a choice and there are these factors that lead to your decision, and could you really have chosen differently? Would you really want to? Would you still be you if you went back and toned things down a little? I don’t know. I think I have more to write about this, but it hasn’t coalesced in my mind yet, so I’ll come back to it sometime in the next few days.

Have a nice weekend. And maybe turn the music down? I don’t know. It’s your life. And sometimes, you just gotta say “What the fuck?”

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