More than a quarter of our U.S. population has some degree of hearing defect or impairment.

Some, with minor limitation, sail through life without even knowing or realizing that it exists.

However, for those of us more seriously impaired, it has a detrimental impact on most everything we do and everything we experience.

About the best that can be said is that we are able to ignore or sleep through sounds that are frightening or irritating to others.

For some, just a short period of combat, of gunfire, of “bombs bursting in air” caused lifelong impairment. For many, it is heredity. My dad got a hearing aid as soon as he could afford it, because he was out more in the public. Stay-at-home Mom got hers a few years later.

When first tested in grade school, I remember the nurse saying I failed whatever the test was. I don’t remember anyone suggesting any hearing aid, and I’m positive my parents could not have afforded one if recommended.

Damage was undoubtedly done growing up on the farm, throwing wood chunks away from the screeching saw rig and operating tractors or other loud machinery. I sometimes carelessly, sometimes unwittingly damaged my hearing: teenage factory work, chain sawing, snowmobiling and ATVing, rototilling and lawn mowing without muffling devices.

As with many things, I learned “too little too late."

It’s frustrating going through early life with parents and other adults accusing you of not listening when, in fact, you didn’t hear whatever it was that you were supposed to be listening to.

In school, you can’t very well tell a teacher in a classroom of 20 kids to repeat instructions or directives that other kids easily heard.

In a courtroom, you can’t ask a judge to repeat his or her instruction or observation very many times.

Whenever attending a speech or presentation, or concert or play, or movie or church, you can’t very well interrupt and “stop the show" to ask that the speaker or actors or musicians or minister be louder for you.

So, we miss a lot of what is going on before us.

We try. I start most conversations with strangers saying that I have a hearing impairment. I start most every business or commercial telephone call by saying, “I have a very severe hearing impairment. Please speak loud and clear and slow.”

That usually works - for somewhere between 10 and 30 seconds.

It is no wonder that many with severe hearing impairment become depressed, withdrawn and quite reclusive. They simply stop going out in a public where they cannot hear much of the entertainment or sociability that they pay for or travel to.

Even though we miss out on a lot in life, if I had to choose, it would not even be close between sight and hearing. I’d rather go through life being able to see the world around us, and put up with my hearing impaired little corner of the world I live in.

As always, we don’t have to look very far to see how much worse others have it, and how fortunate we are.