Posted on Friday, December 09, 2011

How a Gym Teacher Obtained Hearing Fitness

People with hearing loss tend to withdraw from social situations. Many times they will convince themselves they feel more comfortable and truly don’t miss the interaction, but when the ability to communicate with others is returned, the loss they’d been living with becomes apparent. In today’s post, Selma Wallack shares the moving story of her friend Ilene, a gym teacher in New York, and how her hearing aids restored something that many people take for granted—the unabashed pleasure of self-expression and community.

My dear friend, Ilene, was the most creative, energetic, efficient gym teacher in NYS. In fact, she was recognized one year as “Gym Teacher of the Year” by the state. Her students thrived and we, the faculty, were proud of her achievements. However, she seldom visited us in the lunchroom during the break, and never came to work in the common area for her preparation period. She returned our greetings politely, but did not initiate conversations. I attributed the style of behavior to her Midwestern up bringing; kind, efficient, but without the outward thrust of a New Yorker.

Years went by, and Ilene became more detached, albeit, with a silent warmth.

One afternoon in March, after our February vacation, Ilene appeared in the faculty lunchroom. We were seated in various areas, sharing holiday experiences with fellow teachers. After a brief greeting, Ilene pulled up a chair near me without disturbing the conversations. Alan had been skiing in Colorado, Ginny went to Florida, and so the stories evolved.

“I visited my family in Minnesota. I didn’t realize how much I had missed them.” Ilene continued sharing.

No one interrupted….which was unusual for our garrulous circle of friends. She told us about her new niece, her mother’s venture into painting, and hikes in the nearby mountains. As we prepared to return to our classrooms, I remember hearing comments from individuals about Ilene’s venture into socializing with us.

The following morning, there were chocolate cupcakes on our lunchroom table. (We usually brought goodies from home to share the calories with our colleagues.) Ilene brought them back from the Midwest, a gift from her mother.

A new Ilene had emerged. We were pleased with the changes, but very curious about the event.

Everyone was polite and supportive as we silently applauded the warm, enthusiastic personality that was such a shocking contrast. Two weeks away from school was hardly enough time to have made such a drastic personality change.

“Not really…” I learned. It sounds like a miracle, and in some ways it was. Ilene shared with me, her supportive friend. “I had minor surgery, followed by the fitting of hearing aids in both ears. I am not basically a shy person, but the last few years I found myself withdrawing from people, because I was fearful of misunderstanding their words, or sounding stupid in my responses. My work with the children was not affected particularly, because of the nature of our activities. But, Selma, I cannot tell you how grateful I feel for the changes those hearing aides have made in my life. I can be a whole person, a sharing person. I am back in the world!”

Thank you Selma and you too, Ilene, for sharing this wonderful story. People Hearing Better is proud to be a part of relating this story. PHB strives to provide information, help educate, and more than that allow individuals who have experiences with hearing loss to come together to help one another. This community is a thriving place thanks to people like the two of you, those who reach out to communicate, knowing that this interaction can and will result in the betterment of other people’s lives.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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