By Wayne Lesser
In 1944, I was born to loving parents. I came into a world of what I call “lesser” sound—I was born hearing-impaired. As a kid, I did not know or did not pay attention to my lesser sound. While I did have regular hearing exams, my parents never indicated to me that I might have hearing loss. In truth, my parents were unaware of my hearing loss throughout my childhood.
My kid sister followed in 1945 and was profoundly hearing-impaired. For years, my family was not aware of her hearing loss, or its severity. At that point, my family still did not know about my hearing loss, either. My mom took my sister from doctor to doctor until one said that she was hearing-impaired and needed hearing aids. She was fitted with aids at age 11.
My sister’s hearing aid was ugly and scary. I remember when she put it on for the first time: a one-piece unit, the size of a deck of cards, with two wires connecting the large earbuds into her little ears. My mom turned it on. At that moment, I was fooling around with the bathroom faucet, turning the water on and off. My sister turned in my direction as, for the first time, she heard the sound of running water—and smiled. It was an unbelievable and memorable experience. I still get chills remembering the event as if it were yesterday. We were the only members of our entire family to be similarly afflicted.
In sports and life, I tried to listen and hear the best I could, positioning myself to look at people's faces—even learning to lip-read by myself, so that I could understand and try to get by. Growing up, I was proud to be an all-star Little League kid, a county all-star in high school basketball, and a basketball athlete at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania. I graduated with a B.A. in history in 1966, and then was accepted into George Washington University Law School.
Law school was tougher for me as I struggled to hear. I remember many times saying I was not prepared when called on by the professors, as I could not follow the questions and discussions in large lecture classes. I was embarrassed to tell them of my hearing loss. But I made it despite all the roadblocks. I graduated in 1969, took and passed the Commonwealth of Virginia Bar Exam, and was admitted to the bars of both Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The summer of that same year I visited San Francisco, saw the changing world, and wanted to be a part of it, including the chance to now listen to the music of the times. One of the trends in men’s fashion was wearing the hair long, so long that it covered the ears.
In March 1970, I moved to Berkeley. I got a job selling women's clothes and met my future wife at the store. We got married in 1971 (we’re still together), and I got my first set of hearing aids. Egads, I thought. Sound—nice! Why did I wait so long to get help? Because before that I did not have the convenience of concealing them with longer hair. Yes, I suppose that as a young man I was sensitive about hearings aids, even if I did need them. But I continued to wear them and still do today. I am sure that over time there has been a gradual decline in my hearing health, but I am as “fine” as I can be with the hearing aids.
I opened my first law office in 1971, practicing law in all types of cases and causes, but primarily in civil litigation and consumer rights. I have mainly been a solo practitioner for nearly five decades.
About five years ago, I began to ask questions about hearing aids, hearing impairment, and hearing risks, which led me to create the Sound Awareness Movement: a movement to provide information, advocacy, and product protection to slow the onset of hearing loss, protect hearing, and educate hearing-at-risk people.
The “Color of Sound™” at lessersoundapp.com grew out my desire to increase awareness of the harmfulness of noise. Too many times I’ve heard the complaint, “I hate to go to a place that is too loud.”
I have many thoughts and ideas for potential solutions for various problems that exist for hearing-impaired people (H-I-P) and hearing-at-risk people (H-A-R-P). This is an area that has not been adequately addressed from a marketing and preventive standpoint in identifying so many otherwise harmful sound environments at work and play.
Simply stated, I am a real person who is hearing impaired. I understand the shame, silence, and fear that people with hearing loss share with our families; the ignorance of the hearing world; and the weight that is imposed upon us because of these problems. I have a strong desire and ability to address issues, advocate for solution-solving products, and provide a real face for the emerging Sound Awareness Movement™.
* This blog post is sponsored by lessersound, llc. To learn more, please visit http://www.lessersoundapp.com/