Auditory Impact

Get ready, I’m about to make a huge generalization: everyone takes their ability to hear for granted… as if it will always be there and can’t be taken away from us (and we’re like that with a lot of things).

But let me tell you from experience, anything can be taken away from you (except God’s grace).

In his book Hannah Coulter, Wendell Berry describes a young woman who’s widowed by warfare.  She and her husband were married briefly before he died, and afterwards she felt like a big part of life had been closed off to her.  I’ve felt that way too, like certain expected joys of living aren’t meant for me because of the things I’ve lost.

One of those things is my hearing, I’ve lost more than 75% over the past few years.  I can’t even count how many times I’ve been in a coffee shop and someone tried to start a discussion with me about the background music (what music?).

People are funny when it comes to music.  Some see it as pointless entertainment (much like tv), and others are addicted to it and rely on it for their happiness.  I don’t support being emotionally-dependent on it (God knows I love silence)… but I can’t stress enough the importance of hearing and making music, and how significantly it can impact lives.  I often joke about how I dislike FM radio, and how I refuse to write catchy pop singles that have shallow lyrics… but in reality, songs like that impact a huge audience, and those people’s lives are affected by what they hear.

In fact, I think we’re impacted by a lot of things without realizing it. We have a surprising amount of faith in celebrities/artists/authors and the messages we receive from them.  Maybe it goes back to that old belief that what is outwardly beautiful must also be good.

In addition to the impact that others have on us, I think we sometimes downplay or simply neglect the impact that we ourselves have on the world… or rather, we forget that we make an impact at all.

Anyone who’s watched me play the guitar has probably noticed that I put it up to my head to feel the vibrations (because I couldn’t hear it unless I played really loudly).

Because I couldn’t hear myself well (musically or otherwise), I was always afraid of being too loud and not knowing it… so I overcompensated, and no one could hear me at all.  Even now with hearing aids I’m still working on breaking those habits, and getting used to being heard.

It forces me to face the way that I impact (and am impacted by) the world.

When go into an establishment (let’s say… the bank) and the teller says ‘hello’… it’s so new to me that I literally start laughing.  I had no idea what kind of silent bubble I was in before, that people would try to engage me like this and I would have no idea.  I don’t know how many times the same teller said ‘hello’ to me in the past and I never heard him… I hope the world didn’t think I was being a jerk.

Don’t take this stuff for granted.

To be in a room full of friends and not be able to converse with them… to ignore a call because you can’t function on the phone… to be in an emotional conversation with the person you love and not be able to tell them that you can’t hear what they’re saying… if you can hear people, don’t take it for granted.

To miss an opportunity to comfort someone in need, when all it takes is an encouraging word… to see someone’s addiction and not intervene, when they simply need to hear that someone else cares enough to tell them to stop… if people can hear you, don’t take it for granted.

The auditory impact that we have on the world (and that the world has on us) is of monumental importance.  Please appreciate it, please be wary of it, please be present.

How oft my sight is veiled by lies

Whose subtleties undo me

The noise which darkens ears and eyes

From song and silence both

From song and silence both


Built from bricks of burden-stone

My legs are dense with shame

But still he carries all of me

He’s strong despite my failings

He’s strong despite my failings


You found me while I was a fiend

To teach me love yourself

Only in Jesus am I relieved

My Heav’n is you and no one else

My Heav’n is you and no one else


2 Responses to “Auditory Impact”

  1. Brian Mulder Says:

    Sarah, this is a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing this…

  2. jeanineguidry Says:

    Wow. Thank you for posting this.

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