Monday, August 3, 2015

Rock Concert? Why Not?

Recently I was asked to go to a concert to which I responded with an emphatic, jump up and down, please please pick me -  "Yes!"  I mean what's a girl to do,  between work and family I really don't have a lot of extra time to just hang with friends.    I was so excited I didn't even ask any details about the concert itself.  And it wasn't until a few days later that I started to really think about the implications of a concert for someone with hearing loss.

Since the girls that asked me were avid fans of the group we were going to see quite a bit was spent on the seats and from that I surmised  that they were going to be pretty close to the stage.  The venue was not one I had been to before but I was sure that the stage was going to have gigantic speakers that sat in front of it.

Truth be told, I haven't had a lot of experience in concerts.  I will just be kind to myself and say this, the last time I went to a concert fluorescent shirts, fringe and torn jeans were popular.  Oh wait - those are all popular again.  So yeah, a long time.

I decided I needed to do some research on the subject and found quite a bit of information out there.

First - concerts are loud.  (yeah, thanks I figured that one out)
Second - expect ringing in your ears after attending a concert no matter what seat you are sitting in but with much more intensity the closer you are to speakers.

Since tinnitus is already so prevalent in my life and with the addition of this last new ringing sound my emphatic yes was falling on deaf ears so to speak.   I shrugged it off as I knew my life couldn't be lived in a hole or captive to fear.  That if it was something I wanted to do even after risk assessment then I would press on with courage and have no regrets.

I do this on a regular basis in everyday situations anyways.  One example is that every Sunday at church I turn off my hearing aids because of how loud and yet how marvelous the music is.  It's worth it to be immersed in the sound.  I know I  have used that term before on my blog with regards to music.  Immersed.  I love to feel swallowed up by the music, especially at church.  Raising voices in unison reminds me of how small we are in this world.  But being able to sing at any volume no matter how well you sing without fear of others judging makes me feel powerful and free.

I haven't told this story to many people but it is one of the reasons that I love being immersed.

Quick back story - My mother started playing the piano for her church when she was very young.  By the time I came along she was playing and leading music in a volunteer capacity for whatever church we attended.  That meant that I not only spent all day Sunday there, we would also come during the week and on Saturdays for music selection and practice.  My brother and I would play in the pews, color or draw until she was done.  Unknowingly whatever songs they practiced began to sink into to my very young mind.

Then, come Sunday, we always sat in the front pew so that my mom could easily move back and forth to the piano.  I would stand there singing my heart out Sunday after Sunday.  I was probably about 8 at the time and I knew no fear or awareness to what adults thought or cared.  Until the day that the pastor, our friend, asked me not to sing so loud because it was hard for others to worship.

In that moment several things changed for me. 

I was instantly embarrassed and began to wonder how many people I had, "disturbed".

I was instantly ashamed and realized that the voice I heard inside of my head must not sound very good out loud. 

I was instantly aware that there was a proper way to worship. 

Religion lost some freedom for me that day and my perception was that I was not accepted in the church for who I really was.  (Throughout the years this feeling would be unknowingly reinforced in different ways by several different churches and church officials.  But I am grateful today that I live in grace instead of by religious rule.)  

I don't know if I talked about it to my parents ever.  But I remember how I felt still to this day.  And that is why in the dark, loud auditorium of our church I feel free, and taking out my hearing aids is an acceptable trade to be immersed.  

So with all of the above information in hand and determination at my back I was on a path to not sacrifice living for fear.

Fortunately, my husband flies helicopters.  These beasts are loud and he has his hearing checked yearly to make sure that it is not being altered by the constant loud noise of the bird.  I began to think about him and what they do to prevent those losses of hearing.  Oddly enough they wear ear plugs with headsets over them.  So they protect their ears by using the ear plugs but then with the headsets they are able to still hear and talk to each other. I texted Chris immediately and asked him to bring home a pair of ear plugs for me to try.  I then got out my Beats headphones which were a Christmas present from Chris that possessed the noise cancelling function.  Sure enough if you push certain buttons the headphones will be noise cancelling even without music playing in them.

I started playing music from the TV and then tried out the headphone set to see if it ended up making a difference.  The change was slight but not nearly significant enough to block a very loud noise.  Plus Beats headphones to a concert....but then I knew.

The girl in me started seeing my whole outfit revolve around my white beats headphones.  Torn grey skinny jeans that look amazing with my two-inch black high heels.  My signature ribbed tank top in black and a fitted army green military style jacket.  I would wear my dark brown hair as straight as it would go and for fun adding a teal color to the ends of my hair.  The white Beats headphones around my neck when not needed would be the perfect accessory.

I casually mentioned it to a couple of my friends that I would probably bring my headphones trying to get a feel for if they thought it was stupid or cool.  All seemed to think it made sense and I felt bold in my choice.  I didn't test out the earplugs but took them as a last resort tool in case my ears started to hurt.

As we entered the auditorium and traveled to our seats my headphones around my neck I felt neither odd nor stupid even though not one other person adorned the same accessory.  I actually felt edgy and cool.  No one knew my story, no one knew who I was.

Once the concert started I quickly decided I should put in the ear plugs and then put my headphones as a second layer.  The music soared and I still heard it very clearly.  A couple of times I pulled my headphones down and all of my friends would scold me.  They didn't know that I also had ear plugs in and they were worried about me.  It was so sweet of them.  I never took the ear plugs out.  I didn't need too.

When we went up to get more drinks I did have a hard time hearing what the cashier was saying and finally I just signed the words, "Thank you."  Her eyes lit up in understanding and she nodded signing, "Your Welcome."  She may have thought I was completely deaf and wondered what in the world I was doing at a music concert but it didn't matter to me.

After the concert everyone was complaining about ringing.  When we got to the car I took out my earplugs and returned my hearing aids to their proper place.  I heard the same, there was no extra tinnitus at all.  I was so happy that I was able to take precaution and protective measures in a fun and useful way while still being able to enjoy something.

I was glad:

That I didn't let it keep me home

That I went out and tried something new

That I stood unafraid to be different 

That I sang as loud as I wanted from the front pew of the church once again

because I can, because I could, because you should.