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May 29, 2015

Let it Be: A Beatlemaniac’s Beacon Through Hearing Loss

This May marks 45 years since Let it Be, the Beatles’ last album, was released. My parents, who were 11 and 21 at the time, remember the album as the tragic marker of the Beatles’ downfall. Dad lost his taste for the Beatles after they shed their mop tops, but he was still saddened to see them break up. To this day, Mom cannot watch the film version of Let it Be without crying because the fights between John and Paul, along with George and Ringo’s frustration, were nothing short of painful.

As a fan known by her community as a Beatlemaniac, I view Let it Be as the heart-rendering last words of my favorite band. As a hard of hearing person, however, I cannot see Let it Be as anything other than the safety blanket that let me release my feelings about my hearing loss.

Let It Be

From the time I was nine years old, Let it Be was able to sing the words that my heart and mind were too young to produce.

“I, Me, Mine,” spoke my thoughts on my third grade teacher, who struck me when she thought I was not paying attention because she refused to accept my hearing loss. “The Long and Winding Road,” felt like the countless strategies that failed to fix my ear infections, and eventually became the song symbolizing my inability to be “normal.” “Get Back,” was a song I used to play when I tried to imagine skipping rope with friends, and living outside the isolation of hearing loss. “I’ve got a feeling,” was the song that made me ask, “What’s a wet dream?”…a question I would not receive an answer to for another five years. “Across the Universe” reminded me that nothing could change the good parts of my world, like my ability to tell stories with dolls or caring for cats.

None of these songs, however, would impact me as much as the title track. All through third grade, “Let it Be” was on repeat through my stereo to cope with the happenings of my life. My teacher cornered my family with the lower school principle and demanded I take ADHD drugs. In class, she jabbed me repeatedly and hung a poster of me staring at computer, demanding that I “focus.” She did not want to hear that my eardrums were evaporating into nothingness, or listen when I said, “I don’t look at you when you talk because I am turning my ear towards you to hear you better.” Eventually, she and my school forced me into IQ testing, refusing to admit the problem was my ears, not my mind. After being hurt and humiliated at school, all I could do was play “Let it Be” and hide under my covers, especially if I had a migraine from the strain.

Paul McCartney’s words were the only thing I had saying things were going to be all right while health, hearing, and education declined as nine turned into ten. In another nightmarish school year, “Let it Be” gave me catharsis as my school threatened expulsion if I did not start Ritalin. Half my hearing was gone, and was replaced with pseudomonas infections that contributed to the development of a cholesteatoma.

“Let it Be” was the only thing that relaxed me enough to cry about my fear of becoming deaf—something my first surgeon said would happen by fifteen or sixteen if my health did not change. I prized music, especially the Beatles, as a critical part of my identity. How could I not, after “marrying” Ringo in a pretend wedding when I was seven and memorizing all the albums by the time I was eight? Losing my hearing meant losing some of my greatest treasures—a fate that felt worse than death. Between a cruel school and a silent future, “Let it Be” became one of my few outlets for release.

“Let it Be” changed from a release to a rock as I switched to what I now call “my hospital” and was treated by two different ear surgeons. Neither of them believed I had to become deaf, and they wanted stabilize my infections while fixing my hearing loss. Such a task, however, was impossible without surgery—my greatest fear after being intubated awake at age seven.

The procedures began against my will when I was eleven, but became my choice one year later. It was when I elected my surgeries that “Let it Be” became representative of a light at the end of the tunnel. “There will be an answer,” Paul said, and mine was in the choice to start restorative surgery, and continue it until my surgeons said I was healthy. “Let it Be” reminded me that each surgery was my decision, and unquestionably the best one I could make for my life.

Every time I had an early morning appointment to schedule procedures, “Let it Be” was my alarm. As the calendar drew nearer to surgery dates, “Let it Be” helped me express fears about botched anesthesia, narcotics, and the looming risk of failure. The night before each procedure, my mother and I listened to “Let it Be” together, while she held me and dried my tears until I fell asleep.

The greatest purpose “Let it Be” served, however, was giving me the strength to walk into the operating room and lay on the table. At age fifteen, I started using music to calm myself in lieu of liquid sedatives because their taste was so nasty that it started to make me vomit. Initially, I listened to “Across the Universe” while walking into surgery. I believed “Nothing’s gonna change [the good parts of] my world”, even if the surgery ended in failure. Thinking upon that idea, I realized “Nothing’s gonna change my world” was the wrong thing to hear because surgery was pointless if my entire world did not change. “Let it Be” held greater meaning because there was nothing more I could do once I submitted to anesthesia. I had to hold onto the hope that “there will be an answer” and I will “wake up to the sound of music” when the surgery is over.

I wish “Let it Be”, its originating film, and the album, had not ended in the band’s break up. It saddens me to think a song so critical to my life would not exist if the Beatles had not collapsed in excruciating pain. Without that song, however, the Beatles might not have held the same meaning to me and billions of people since 1970. Long before I was born, there were Beatles fans listening to “Let it Be”, and joining a network of “broken hearted people living in this world, [agreeing] there will be an answer.”

Undoubtedly, there is a whole world of people who have seen “Let it Be” as release or a rock, and might not be where they are today if it was never recorded. This anniversary, my hard of hearing identity overrides my inner Beatlemaniac and thanks the Beatles endlessly for “Let it Be.”

Without that song, I might not have survived the emotional turmoil that came from ear infections and hearing loss.

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Christina is a 21-year-old with hearing loss. She has been writting for the Phonak Open Ears blog since 2014.
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Christina is a 21-year-old with hearing loss. She has been writting for the Phonak Open Ears blog since 2014.