Ditch them. You just might hear the world calling your name.

 

I hereby dub them Generation Deaf and Blind.

 I’ve always been vaguely offended by people who walk around wearing headphones, and I only recently realized why. Both my parents were profoundly deaf. I grew up watching them struggle to communicate with others, often misunderstanding and, in turn, finding themselves misunderstood.

So I never took hearing for granted. More than once as a boy, I pressed my hands over my ears, trying to simulate the experience of deafness. Other times I pretended to be Superman, equipped with superhearing to function as a surrogate for my parents.

Why would anyone deliberately tune out sound from the world around us? Granted, music makes us happy. Headphones give us control over what we hear, as well as when and where. They insulate our ears from the din of jackhammers, car horns and the noise of daily life.

The trend toward wearing earpieces in public is unmistakable. Apple has sold more than 300 million iPods since its introduction in 2001. A 2014 survey found that the average millennial wore headphones for nearly four hours a day, and 53% of them owned three or more pairs.

But pedestrians who tune out the sounds around them are taking a real risk. The number of people in the U.S. seriously injured or killed while walking in public and wearing headphones tripled between 2004 and 2011, according to one study. In 29% of those accidents, a warning—such as a horn, siren or shout—evidently went unheard.

People are free to impose such sensory deprivation on themselves. If, in commuting to and from your job, you prefer to listen to music or a podcast than to hear birds warbling or the wind rustling the leaves or an infant giggling as a puppy licks her face—or for that matter, a speeding ambulance honking at you to step aside—be my guest.

Even so, consider the alternative. Ditch the earpieces once in a while, if only as a change of pace. Listen to the sounds around you, a luxury that eludes more than a million deaf Americans. You just might hear the world calling your name.

~ Bob Brody, from “The Case Against Deliberate Deafness. Constant use of headphones creates hazards and muffles the music of daily life.” (wsj.com, Feb 8, 2018)


Photo by ShannonVanB

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