The Cage

Recently I had an ear infection that was so bad, I actually had a hole in my eardrum. My wife gleefully went around telling her friends, "Yup, my hubby has a hole in his head. Doesn’t that explain everything?"

Fortunately, antibiotics solved the problem. I no longer have a hole in my head (and no longer have an excuse for my loony behavior). However, the doctor wanted to know more about my deafness. I told him I have no idea what the dB level is, it’s been years since anyone checked.

“Why not find out today?” the doctor asked. “Our audiologist would be glad to test you.”

So, for the first time in decades, I willingly stepped into the place I used to call “The Cage”--the audiologist’s booth.

I hated The Cage as a kid. Say the word “airplane.” Say the word “hot dog.” Say the word “claustrophobic.” Get me out of there! Even worse, it would upset hearing relatives whenever I did poorly in The Cage--and thus it upset me. This was the entire basis of my book, Deaf Again. I always had the feeling that in order to win everyone's approval, I had to be hearing. It would take a long time before I realized it was okay for me to be, ahem, deaf again. Therefore, I felt it was imperative that I do well in the audiologist's booth.

I would do my best to ace this test. I’d look for the slightest muscle twitch, a raised eyebrow, the audiologist picking her nose. Those were my cues. If I saw them, my hand shot up. I heard that! Or did I? By the end of the test I’d be ready for another cage, one with a lot more padding.

But today, things have changed. I sat in The Cage with a smile on my face. No anxiety, nothing to prove. I’m deaf, dang it, and proud of it. I goofed around in the booth. Instead of raising my hand, I had this electronic gizmo I had to click whenever I heard a sound. I pretended I was on Jeopardy!: "Strange sounds for $2,000, Alex." The audiologist wondered if I still had a hole in my head.

I actually had fun and flunked with flying colors. Yup, still deaf. And I guess my message is this: if you’re going to put your kids in The Cage, make sure they know it’s an assessment tool, not a laboratory experiment. Otherwise, they’ll think you have a hole in your head.