Where Did You Say You Were Going?

You may be inclined to skip this post. Please don’t. The lesson at the end will make it worthwhile.

I once gave a talk where I had my audience participate in a hearing experiment. I said, “Close your eyes. I will snap my fingers and I want you to point to where you hear the snap…but don’t open your eyes until I tell you to.”

My intention was to have my audience deal with a seemingly impossible reality. They knew I was standing directly in front of them, but they didn’t know I had an assistant seated to my left, about 20 feet away. I nodded to her and she snapped her fingers near the ground. It took a little while, but soon they were all pointing in the direction they thought the sound came from. As I expected, some pointed towards me, others averaged out the source of the snap and the place where they had seen me standing and pointed to an area defined by their calculations, and some correctly pointed directly to my assistant.  Finally, I instructed them to keep pointing and open their eyes.

My assistant smiled at all those who were pointing at her. They were happy, because they accurately identified the source of the sound!

Human beings are able to identify almost exactly where a sound comes from with our eyes closed based on which ear receives the sound first and how loud or intense the sound is when it reaches each ear. Our brain possesses the remarkable capacity to distinguish whether the location of the sound we hear is in front or in back of us, to the left or to the right of us…until it loses that ability.

As we age, hearing loss sneaks up on us. As grandparents, this is a problem for both us and our grandchildren. Admitting to others that we can’t hear is difficult. We don’t like asking people to repeat themselves and young people are not always eager to duplicate their recent dialogues. Hearing impairment can be a relationship killer. Besides getting fitted for hearing aids, is there anything else you can do about it?

Image by karlyukav on Freepik

One important thing you can do is explain to your grandchildren what is happening to you. Tell them how your hearing loss is impacting your life and how much you value your relationship with them. This is one of the ways you treat your grandchildren as “adults.” Discuss with them ways they can help you such as “Don’t be afraid to speak a bit louder.” or “It helps if we sit over here where I can hear you better.”

Another way to compensate for hearing loss is to look directly at your grandchild when you are engaged in conversation. You will often understand them better if you do.

Finally, be prepared with questions you want to ask them. Even if their response to your last question made no sense because they told you about a video game about which you know nothing, you can still follow up by saying, “Can I ask you another question?”

Above all, no matter how you are declining, don’t withdraw from maintaining strong relationships with your grandchildren. Learning to love is an important lesson at every stage of life!

Mike Shaughnessy deals with this and other issues in his forthcoming book A Spirituality for Aging.

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