What? by Vicki Carter

Updated: Apr 9

You may not know it, but I probably owe you an apology. I am sure I never said anything, but I was convinced you were mumbling. In fact, I thought you had all been mumbling for a while. Seriously, I thought you needed to speak up and start enunciating clearly. Why not use your diaphragm and project your voice? And I thought Rev. Donna’s mic was way too low. These kids at the back of the sanctuary are as quiet as little church mice, mostly, yet I couldn’t understand half what the minister was saying, and I wanted to hear it!


And as for those church mice... I apologize for every time you whispered something and I had to just shake my head and point to my ears. I would beckon for you to speak directly into my ear, yet I still couldn’t understand a thing you said. I would try to guess your meaning by the emotion you seemed to be experiencing and make a sympathetic face. If you seemed upset I would gesture for us to go to the nursery so we could talk out loud. I apologize for any time I pretended to understand you when I really didn't.


In December 2019 I visited my family in North Carolina. My sister kept doing a mini intervention, putting on a serious face and telling me I needed to have my hearing checked. No, really. Get it checked. My older brother even agreed with her once, saying that he had understood something I had missed. To appease them, I downloaded a hearing test app. I didn’t have everything I needed to do the test there, including a quiet environment, so I put it off.


I had the flu as soon as I got back to Texas. When I felt better I finally tested my hearing. I texted the relatives that my hearing was normal. Probably not as great as it used to be, but okay.


But doubt had set in. I started noticing just how how often I had to ask people to repeat things. Could they all be too quiet? I made an appointment with the ENT.



It turns out I have mild to moderate hearing loss. I am on the threshold of being unable to understand conversation. If there is a lot of background noise (cue the holiday house with siblings) I will be impaired.


Higher sounds are the most difficult. They need to be louder than low sounds for me to hear them. No wonder I can’t hear small children when they whisper right into my ear!


The very next Sunday I joined the ranks of the people using assistive listening devices.


I’m going to try hearing aids. I know they are pricey and I'm told some people hate dealing with them. But I can return them within 45 days if they don’t work out.

I have been married to a blind man for more than 35 years. It is weird to have a disability of my own, however mild. My thesis was about adjustment to blindness. I see the parallels to adjustment to hearing loss. I have to say that knowing how all that works doesn’t help me at all.


If the hearing aids don't work out I hope you will be patient with me. Sometimes I’m either going to say, “What?” or pretend I understood you. If you see a look of concern on my face, it's all right. It’s only me...wishing I could tell what you just said.

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The Rev. Christian Schmidt is our interim minister, and first became a Unitarian Universalist in this congregation where he was an active member from 2006-2009. He has since served congregations in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California. His interests include his family (including four little boys he and his wife are raising), sports, and theology.


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