‘He’s Deaf, You Know.’

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
and the ears of the deaf
(Isaiah 35:5 NIV)

If Scottish poet, Robert Burns, had been sitting behind me in our worship service on most Sunday mornings and seen me putting my hand behind my ears he might have wondered if I had the same problem as the lady sitting in front of him did. He noticed a head louse roaming over the bows and ribbons of her hat, and her hair. Poor woman - little did she know that she would, with her head companion, be the subject of one of Burns' poems, on how we see ourselves, and how we think other people see us.

But no, I don’t have head lice, and I’m not even scratching my head. I’m simply adjusting my hearing aids to pick up the loop system so that I can hear what’s being said. They tell me I suffer from presbycusis, which in plain English just means I’m getting old and can’t hear as well as I did. The hearing aids help, but don’t restore the full range of hearing of earlier years.

This disability – deafness – has been my opportunity to learn just a little of the lessons of social exclusion that many people with the physical impairments, including those caused by leprosy, experience. I can’t quite hear what was said. Those who know me well understand the blank look that results, or the silence that ensues, or worst of all the wrong answer given in reply. If not laughter, there’s embarrassment all round. Then some try to shout, making one feel even worse. And yet others must conclude there’s something wrong with my brain. I shouldn’t blame them.

Accepting my own condition has been an important part of my coming to terms with it. Trying to understand how others regard me has also been important.  That doesn’t remove the hope that things would be better. I can say with Burns:
O would some Power the gift to give us, To see ourselves as others see us.
But I can also change the wording slightly and say:
O would some Power the gift to give us, To hear as others do, and I once did.
But the prophet Isaiah, as part of the promise of total restoration, offers something even better in the life to come.
‘Then will ... the ears of the deaf be unstopped!’
I look forward to that day.