I have hearing aids.
They’re new – I’ve had them for six weeks now. They’re making a big difference in my quality of life. Like a friend said, “They’re not glamorous, but they are helpful.”
I first had a concern about my hearing probably ten years ago. I went to an audiologist, who said he didn’t see anything wrong. So I assumed that meant I wasn’t paying enough attention to what was going on around me, and I made efforts to be more tuned in.
Then five years ago, I realized that I’d been saying, “Huh?” a lot, so I saw an audiologist again. This time, the tests showed hearing loss in each ear. The right ear registered sounds on the line marking “normal” hearing, and the left ear was slightly below the line.
That audiologist told me I was a candidate for hearing aids, but I probably wouldn’t notice a huge difference. I’d get a “bigger bang for my buck” if I waited until the loss was more significant.
So he taught me some coping strategies:
- Don’t shout from room to room.
- Face the person you’re speaking to, so you can see their lips moving.
- In a restaurant, sit in a booth, with your back to the crowd, so the only sound coming to you is your dining partner’s voice.
These techniques helped immensely, particularly the second one. I found I could “hear” what was being said when I could see the other person’s lips move. One of my former co-workers even went so far as to back her chair up from behind the filing cabinet, so I could see her clearly when we talked across the room. She was so thoughtful!
But as time went on, I began to notice that I couldn’t hear people when they whispered, and I started wearing a headset at outdoor theater productions.
Fast-forward to March, and I was sitting next to my best friend at a live indoor theater performance where my daughter was working. We’re four rows from the stage, and I had my hand cupped behind my ear to try and catch the dialogue. At intermission, my friend told me that the actors were projecting well, and she wasn’t having any difficulty understanding them. I knew it was time.
So I saw an audiologist, who sent me to an ENT, to make sure there was nothing on the nerves blocking the sound waves. He walked in the room, took one look at me and declared I was too young for hearing loss. “Oh, I think you’ll be surprised,” was my response.
And he was. I had significant loss in each ear, with the left still being worse than the right. He sent me back to an audiologist, who fitted me for the hearing aids.
The technology of hearing aids has come a long way since my grandpa’s old devices. The aids communicate with each other and adjust as I enter a room, so if sound is coming from the left, the right one will adjust accordingly. Or I can control the volume and direction of the sounds I’m hearing with a tap on the app on my iPhone. My phone actually projects the caller directly into my hearing aids, so I hear very clearly on a phone call. There’s even a music setting, and customizable programming for what I hear (like an equalizer on the stereo). I’m sure I’ll use those more as my hearing loss increases.
The aids themselves are very small. The hearing piece is down in my ear canal – no big ol’ fake-flesh-colored gadget. The wires are translucent, so you don’t obviously see them as they trail up my ear to the battery piece. Yes, that still goes over my ear, but it came in lots of colors, so we picked a shade of silver to match my gray hair! Again, pretty unobtrusive.
They’re expensive little buggers, though, and each aid uses one battery approximately every 9 days. I’ve been told that the savings on batteries alone will pay for a Costco membership. Insurance didn’t cover any of the aids’ cost – that’s apparently typical, which I think is a shame. How is an older person on a fixed income supposed to hear?
I’m grateful to have these little tools. I can hear my kitty purring. I can hear the birds in the trees, and their chatter at the feeder. I love being able to hear on the phone, and when a friend is praying. I can even hear my husband calling me from another room!
It’s like my world has opened up again. And I can hear the joy in it.