Here's Melanie Miller with her essay for KUHF's This I Believe.
The aluminum screen door slammed shut.
I jumped then clapped my hands. Laughing, I turned to my parents and asked, "Did you hear that?"
Mother smiled. My father stared back with sad eyes. Both nodded yes.
I had just heard the back door close for the first time in my life. I was 12 years old. That morning, Mother and I had picked up my first hearing aid.
I had fought my parents bitterly about this alien device. I cried buckets of tears, I feared my classmates. I saw them staring at the bulky piece of plastic, jutting unwanted through my thick hair. I envisioned them running away from me horrified on the playground. I dreaded questions about how long I had been deaf and why I had hidden it for so long.
To be deaf, I believe, can be harsh. Hearing aids are mostly hidden, unlike eyeglasses that reveal themselves each time they're worn. Deafness is sometimes considered life destroying. Yet I wouldn't exchange my deafness for perfect hearing. That would sacrifice benefits I gained from five decades of learning to listen.
I learned to read lips early. Even now I can hear you from across a room, as long as you're faced in my direction.
When the television censor bleeps a forbidden word, my family yells "Melanie! Quick! What'd she say?" I laugh and tell them unless my grandchildren are nearby.
By reading body language, I hear what people don't say...fluttering hands, nervous eyes, crossed arms - all send me secret meanings and emotional truths.
Mother drove the station wagon as we returned home that day, long ago. I sat alone in the backseat. The hard plastic hearing aid sat tucked uncomfortably inside my left ear. I heard a soft noise behind me. I turned my head to the left then to the right, sliding my long hair against the vinyl seat. The sound of my hair across the plastic was sweet and tender, unlike anything I had ever heard. "What are you doing?" she asked... "My hair, Mommy, it's whispering."
So began my listening journey. This gift reveals what begs to be heard. It allows me to heal my world with ears that now hold two hearing aids. To hear and to listen: in my life, I believe listening is more important than hearing."