For me, though, hearing is king.
I was raised in Syracuse, New York, home to Finger Lakes, Stickley furniture and Carrier air conditioners. Thanks to the folks at Carrier, life in the Sun Belt became possible. People now flock to areas previously all-but-uninhabitable due to their brutal summers. Life everywhere has changed, though. Our homes have become insular places where the sounds of a sidewalk conversation, a barking dog, or a wind chime blowing in the breeze are now either muted or have vanished completely from the comfort of our homes. Gone, too, are so many of the sounds of my youth. Such timeless moments of clamor as the mechanical turn of a rotary dial, the clang of an ice cream truck, and the whimsical ding at the right hand margin of a manual typewriter are vanishing from the soundtrack of my life. Many of these sounds and others have fallen prey to technology. How sad that my children and theirs will no longer even know such sounds. They simply won’t hear them. Ever. Theirs, instead, will be a virtual world where they will stay plugged in and online, while just outside their earshot a beautiful world will pass by them unnoticed. They will play their video games, listen to their music on their Ipods, and communicate with each other only by text. Even their own voices will soon seem extraneous.
The silencing of such sounds will be even more poignant for me, a woman who, with each passing day, is slowly but surely losing her hearing. And while I hate what we’ve lost through technology, I thank God for what it’s brought us. Without the wonderful little hearing aids I put in my ears each morning, I would not hear the birds chirping or crickets humming. Speech would be garbled and the subtleties of the spoken word lost in a sea of white noise. While I hate losing that lovely rotary dial sound, thank goodness I can hear the doves from my porch swing and the sweet sound of my children’s voices. And some nights, when I’m all alone, if I close my eyes and imagine really hard, I can even hear a screen door slam, the crack of a baseball bat or that haunting little piano piece I once knew by heart.