This is about going deaf, and I’m writing about deafness because in a couple of weeks I’m going to have to take delivery of a new set of hearing aids that are 10 to 15 percent better than what I have. I’d rather spend the money on something else, but when you’re in my position, 10 to 15 percent is a lot because I’ve made it to the Severe level of hearing loss. The levels are: Mild hearing loss: Sometimes you have trouble following what people say, particularly if there’s background noise.
Moderate hearing loss: Without hearing aids, you have trouble following speech, period.
Severe hearing loss: You usually need to lipread or use sign language, even with hearing aids.
Profound hearing loss: Forget the hearing aids—too late for them. It’s signs and lipreading or nothing.
I’m just over the edge into Severe, so the hearing aids still help some of the time.
I got here through a combination of gunfire, heredity, and bad timing. I’ve been shooting regularly for 60 years. I’ve listened to an immense amount of very loud noise. Probably, no matter what I had done or not done earlier, I’d still be deaf to some degree.
When I started shooting I can’t remember anyone using hearing protection. I began in the NRA summer camp rimfire program in 1958, and the report of a .22 rimfire is enough to make you deaf. I listened to lots of them. When I enlisted in the Army in 1963, no one wore hearing protection. A few people stuck cigarette filters in their ears, which was useless, and they were laughed at.
When I was 30, I was already having trouble, and had a hearing test, where I was told that I had Mild hearing loss. By then I was wearing headphones, except when I hunted, and since I did a lot of hunting I listened to a lot of gunfire which did a lot of damage. And, as with all things, the bill has come due.
In the next installment: What you can expect when you’re deaf.