John Cotter writes about navigating life with unpredictable hearing loss, a condition not totally controlled by hearing aids. He relates how his needs and habits have had to change over the years to accommodate his sometimes wildly varying auditory abilities. Most importantly, he writes, his loss is not just related to snippets of lost conversation, but of the intimacy that can be intrinsic in sound.

When I could hear well, one of the sounds I most loved was a cat drinking water. A simple need was being satisfied for the cat, and the sound affirming that was satisfying for me. Similarly, there’s a sound Elisa makes when she tastes something especially toothsome, a kind of satisfied smack of her lips. I missed hearing that when my ears went bad, but — before it happened — I didn’t know it was a sound I’d miss.