What? I can’t hear you! Hearing, or I should say, “not hearing” is a condition equally frustrating to those afflicted and those who aren’t. Last month, President Biden’s executive order lowered the price of hearing aids. Hearing loss sneaks up on us. If people would just stop whispering. Speak up! We want to yell at people.
Hearing aids are not like regaining younger years’ hearing. Even though you “hear” the words, it takes the brain time to adapt to the artificial louder sounds. You may hear what people say, but the brain treats it like a foreign language. But the more time you spend with your hearing aids, the more you understand. However, like people who learn a new language at an older age, you will have an “accent.” Even the highest priced hearing aids won’t bring back flawless hearing.
Aside from studies (Johns Hopkins) showing that hearing loss doubles dementia risk and makes us more dependent, we learn to wear hearing aids for other people who have tired of our What did you say? But first, we have to face our hearing loss. My sluggish epiphany began in our backyard.
”Have you noticed that the birds don’t come into our yard anymore?” I ask Tim basking in the rays of a summer day.
“No, they still come,” he responds without opening his eyes.
“No, they don’t,” I insist. “Every year less and less birds come to our yard.”
“O.K.,” he says. I know that tone well. He wants the conversation to end.
“It could have something to do with global warming,” I suggest. Perhaps this will pry his eyes open. It doesn’t.
This backyard scene happened around the time my children had started to mumble. As this contagion spreads to friends, TV, and phone solicitors (didn’t mind that so much), I decide to see an audiologist to confirm my suspicion about my family’s conspiracy against me.
The audiologist was not interested in my conspiracy theory. “You need hearing aids.” When I don’t respond right away he talks louder, “You can’t hear!” That gets my attention. I scan the walls in his office for a diploma. Was he in on this with my family? I’d read plenty of stories of husbands institutionalizing their wives, but probably not because of poor hearing.
Finally, I was ready to consider the possibility that my hearing had heard its best days. I recalled my father as his hearing deteriorated and my impatience grew. After years of repeating everything to him twice or thrice, talking to him became a chore. We had fewer conversations. Not wanting the same fate, I started wearing hearing aids.
Wearing hearing aids is a big change. A big adjustment and a big expense even with the government’s help. My kitchen became the loudest room in the house—our beautiful quartz countertop was a bad idea. Butcher block would have been better. But the birds were back and I no longer dreaded talking on the telephone.