The Little Theatre of Owatonna is playing “A Streetcar Named Desire.” I have been volunteering on the costume team. A couple of the actors have quick changes that we are helping with and changing areas have been setup backstage. Backstage is dark and quiet. We use flashlights to see costumes and props. If we need to communicate, it is done in whispers.
I was struggling to hear my co-costumers in the dark. Due to my hearing loss, I have become accustomed to facing a person and looking at them when they are talking to me. Although I feel that the hearing I have with my cochlear implants is pretty great, whispering in the dark is a challenge.
At the dress rehearsal as we were figuring out how we wanted to help the actors and where we needed to be, I found myself in a pitch black corner. I heard co-costumer, Norma, whisper to me but had no idea what she said. She whispered louder. I still didn’t get it. On Norma’s third try, I finally got that she was telling me the corner was too small for two and she was going to go to stage left. While I stood in the corner waiting for the next move, I wondered to myself, “How am I going to communicate back here?”
Later that evening, Norma and I were working together behind the scenes stage left. The area was dark, but not so black you couldn’t see anything; however, reading lips was not an option. Norma whispered something to me and I happened to lean in allowing her to whisper right next to my left side processor T-mic microphone. Wallah! I was able to understand her whispers.
It was always hard for me to understand whispers. I choose the word “understand” because I could hear the hushed sounds of a whisper, but I could not comprehend the words being said.
In the history of testing people’s hearing, whispering was used as a tool for assessment. My very first Ear, Nose and Throat doctor that I saw for a hearing assessment tested me with whispering. In the exam room, he stood in the corner, facing away from me and whispered numbers. I was to repeat the numbers back to him. I was sitting on the exam table and my mother was sitting nearby in a chair. When I looked at her during this test, her expression told me that I was not getting the numbers right. At the moment she realized I was looking at her, she forced a a smile.
For many years I avoided situations where I would need to communicate in the dark or with whispers. If someone did try to communicate with me via whispers, they would often get the fake out response – a smile and a nod, or if I could see their face, a reflection of the emotion I thought I was seeing in them.
Now I hear with my bionic ears and I’m conquering my hearing fears. Whisper to me – on the left side – into my T-mic microphone.