I am sitting absolutely straight in a hard-backed chair in the middle of a dimly lit sound-proofed room. Wires stick out of both sides of my head. To my right the thick hazy glass of the small window only vaguely allows me to see out.
I strain my ears. Is that a sound? There! At the far outside edges of my senses, I detect something. I press the button on the black metal contraption I hold in my hands. After all, before she left, she told me that it might seem almost imaginary, but if I heard anything I should press.
I’m having my hearing tested. The audiologist went through a whole series of questions before we began. The long and the short of it was, “Why are you here?” I’m too young, really, and don’t work in an especially loud environment. I don’t regularly attend loud concerts and no one in my family is complaining that I don’t respond when they speak.
Still, here I sit, furrowing my brow and tensing my body in concentration. Do I hear that? Is that a noise? I press the button.
Last semester, I finally gave up. I couldn’t hear about half of my students when they spoke. “Speak up!” I’d say. “Can you repeat that?” Most of them just trailed off and whatever thought they’d had was gone. I know that my classes are full of kids who have mastered the art of hiding from their teachers, but this was too much. I really wanted to hear what they were saying.
The room I was teaching in is, frankly, terrible for sound. It’s right by the water fountain, the boys bathroom and a t-intersection with another hallway. It’s just a few doors down from the music room. And, worst of all, someone designed the building so that the air vent blows directly into the front of the room, right where a teacher might stand. Honestly, it was a miracle I could hear anyone at all.
When I mentioned my frustrating inability to hear my students to my doctor at a checkup, she said,”I’ll refer you.” And here I am. Oh! My thoughts have drifted. Did I just miss a really low tone? I press the button again.
Finally, the test ends. Back in the regular office, I face the audiologist with trepidation. She grins, “Your students need to speak up. Your hearing is nearly bionic in some areas and fine in all areas.”
Alright, kiddos, I’ve got science on my side: I can hear you now. It’s time to raise your voices and tell the world – or at least me – what you know.