Sounds I Can’t Hear

The “shibboleth” of the hard of hearing world.

Our language is exact or precise when it comes to the pronunciation of words. Not all sounds register in the brain properly for those who are hard of hearing.

In the book of Judges the twelfth chapter, there is an interesting story that separated two tribes of people because of their ability to say a certain  word. The Gileadites set up a roadblock to prevent the enemy from crossing the Jordan River. If the Ephraimites tried to cross the Jordan, they were challenged to pronounce the word “Shibboleth.” They would say “Sibboleth” because they could not pronounce the ‘Sh’ sound right, which revealed that they were an enemy and were killed. 

All my life, I had been challenged to pronounce words or sounds that did not register in my brain. The hair cells in the cochlear were damaged and could not distinguish some sounds. 

It was difficult for me to speak or learn a foreign language for that same reason. Not all hard of hearing have the same problem I have. The sounds just do not register, no matter how loud you pronounce it. Some English words were just impossible for me to say. Children would say that I talked funny. 

I am not trying to be difficult nor rebelling by refusing to make the words come out properly. I cannot pronounce words if I cannot hear them properly.

When people spell their names, I get lost and confused, because I can’t distinguish ‘t’ from a ‘p’ or a ‘b’ or an ‘e.’ I can mess up a word. My inability to spell words is classified under the American Disabilities Act as a handicap. Moreover, I cannot distinguish numbers. If you do not write it down, I will never get it. This is why my math ability is so inferior. Whether you say it to my face or on the phone, I can never hear it correctly.

This has been the most embarrassing confession I have ever made in my life. It is time for me to explain that I am not retarded. I have abilities and talents beyond sounds, numbers, or letters.

Another unique feature of my hearing loss is that I could never understand words sung to music. Sometimes when vowels are drawn out, it also makes it hard to lip read. 

Even when I wear hearing aids, some sounds just do not register.

Is this problem widespread among hard of hearing? Is it a problem in other languages? Is it a universal trend?
I am not going to allow this handicap to intimidate me any longer. Satan would love to destroy me over this issue.

If you or someone you love is hard of hearing, join our Hear Now Community where smart and brave people with hearing loss go to find solutions. Taking this bold step will change your life forever.

David M. Harrison, holder of two honorary doctorate degrees,
for my work in missions and evangelism Director of Let My People Hear, Inc.

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