I was recently able to get new hearing devices for
Noontomon. In was no big deal because she has been using others for 13 years.
Those have now worn out. Thirteen years ago when she began using hearing aids
for the first time, it was a very big deal. Here is how it happened. In 1988
Father Frank Malinowsky, a Spiritan, visited us here in Tanzania. Maasai
country problems of cattle disease and the lack of water occupied much of our
conversation, but a local tragedy especially caught his attention. I told him
of Noontomon, a young married girl here in the Endulen area, who is almost
totally deaf. She and her friends often stop by the house for a cup of tea
when they come to Endulen shopping.
Noontomon was always straining to hear what is said, wanting to be part of the
conversation, but invariably unable to "catch", what people are saying. To her
frequent pleas of "What did you say?" people literally must yell a reply in her
ear. Relaxing a little, she says "Oh!" and makes an appropriate comment. But
by that time the conversation has moved on and Noontomon is left behind.
Then a small box arrived from Frank Malinowsky. It
contained a hearing aid, plenty of spare batteries and a book of instructions.
It happened that on that day Noontomon, her husband, their small daughter and
many people from their village came by. Everyone was sitting around drinking
tea engaged in animated conversation. Noontomon, as usual was on the sidelines
straining, mostly unsuccessfully, to catch a word here and there. At this point
I produced Frank’s box, and everyone laughed when I said inside was a small
machine that would make Noontomon hear. When this was yelled into Noontomon’s
ear, she did not laugh. The expression on her face indicated that she was hurt
that I would make a joke of something that caused her so much pain.
As I pulled the little hunk of plastic out of its box and
inserted it in Noontomon’s ear I told her that it was not a joke. As soon as it
was in her ear, she was transfixed, her face frozen in fear, dismay, I don’t
know what. Slowly it dawned on her. She was hearing, hearing voices from all
over the room. She responded to a remark someone made in a quiet tone of voice
on the other side of the room. All conversation stopped dead and people got
funny expressions on their faces. Out of the silence, thrust a small cry from
Noontomon. "I hear you." After initial consternation, everyone wanted to talk
to Noontomon. It became a game with everybody wanting to try Noontomon out in
ever-lower tones of voice from further and further away.
Frank, 13 years down the road. — thanks again from
Noontomon and her family.