The Ubiquitous Pig

The Newsletter of Books at Sow’s Ear

December 13, 2008

On Deafness: Part II

By Dan Krotz

I am almost entirely deaf. I read lips well, and most folks don’t know that my ears work as flaps but are otherwise pretty useless. I can hear some types of music, but can’t hear what’s happening on most television programs. I don’t mind very much. I’ve heard just about everything already and I don’t think I’ll miss hearing it the second or third time around.

I was discouraged to hear (ha ha) that Rush Limbaugh is nearly deaf. I don’t care that he is deaf, but I do worry that people will think that all deaf people are loudmouths and know-it-alls. I admit to being something of a know-it-all, but I keep it to myself unless someone tricks me into a conversation about bailouts or transubstantiation; then I can be a loudmouth too. Rest assured that, excluding Rush and myself, most deaf people are charming, polite, and civic-minded folk.

Why I am deaf is a complicated matter of heredity, forty years of rock and roll and E. Power Biggs, and the departure of tiny little hairs that are supposed to cover my cochlea, which is basically a bone inside my head. My cochlea, in a nutshell, (that is NOT a pun) is bald.

There isn’t anything I can do about it. My type of hearing loss can’t be improved with the purchase of a hearing aid or surgery. Even if it could be improved through those means I doubt that I would pony-up for the chosen solution. When I look at myself I do so with the realization that I am fully depreciated and that much further investment will not be recouped.

That may be sad news to the dentists, physicians, audiologists, and optometrists who depend on our ambition to live forever for their livelihoods, but if I took all my ailments in hand I would become The $6,000,000 Man in very short order. I can’t convince myself that I’m worth that much.

I used to be able to stand on one leg and hop into my socks. Now, I have to sit down on a bench to put them on, otherwise I’ll tip over like a Saturday night drunk. On the whole, I miss hopping into my socks more than I miss hearing. I know that is a self-centered view: my deafness is inconvenient to lots of people while no one except me misses my ability to sock hop.

One form of inconvenience is the intense stare that deaf lip readers focus on speakers, particularly if what the speaker has to say is interesting or important. It can be intimidating to people to be stared at, and it is often difficult for them to distinguish intensity from hostility. On the other hand, if a lip reader casts a friendly, sort of boozy nod in your direction, then you know that chowder is coming out of your mouth. In either case, beware the active “Listener.”

The poet-painter David Jones (1895-1974) became very deaf in later life. His loss of hearing coincided with the Catholic Church’s adoption of the vernacular mass, a change that he deeply resented. ‘They’ve buggered up the Mass,” he exclaimed, in a letter to his friend Graham Greene. “I can’t hear what they’re up to—and I don’t want to!”

Jones’ dissent was partially a defense of orthodoxy, but it also expressed how dependent hard of hearing people become on cues, and on traditional forms of operation and manner. He knew to respond “Et cum spiritu tuo” when “Dominus Vobiscum” was cued up by the officiating priest, but he literally and figuratively couldn’t hear “The Lord be with you” in the vernacular mass. He felt left out and it made him really mad. His anger shows up in his later poems and paintings.

The point being, of course, that change is difficult and even more difficult for the deaf and hard of hearing. That’s probably why I like familiar songs and familiar people and object to adding anything new to my repertory of allotted days. Like David Jones, and most other old guys, I like to hear what I like to hear. Even when I can’t.

Please visit The Ubiquitous Pig at

Now is the time to Visit an Independent Bookstore!

Daniel Krotz
202 Public Square
Berryville Arkansas 72616


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