"Picture this," as The Golden Girl's Sophia is fond of saying. I
am sitting at my computer desk, cleaning my little sweet little
hearing aids before inserting them. The morning is peaceful and
quiet; the leaves outside my window are quivering gently in the
breeze. I put in the hearing aids. I hear birds! The morning,
though peaceful enough, is not as quiet as I thought. I take my
hearing aids out, just for fun. Silence. Put them back in. Birds.
Twittering. Here I am, in my late sixties, playing with sound.
Later, as I enter text, I realize that my mouse is not as
high-tech as I thought. I was under the impression that my mouse
was silent. Not so. It clicks. I can hear it. I could do without
this particular revelation, but it does illustrate how much I was
missing. We can't know what we are not hearing, can we.
I remember driving home, the day I got these little puppies. I
kept hearing this skritching sound, which I had never heard before.
"What's wrong with the car? What is that noise?" Then I realized it
was the background rhythm of the music from the radio. I've always
loved music, all kinds except rap. Even when I was only hearing
part of it. When I got home, I spent the afternoon listening to my
favorite CDs. Hearing subtleties I hadn't heard before. Life now
had another level of enrichment.
One more thing. I can hear my doorbell now, even with my head in
the back of an upstairs cupboard. Who knows what interesting sales
calls I missed? What opportunities could have been mine? How many
chocolate-covered almonds I could have bought? Seriously, it's nice
not to have my son call me on his cell phone saying, "Mom! I'm at
"Is it my imagination?" I asked the audiologist,"or do I really
have more energy now that I hear better?" He told me it wasn't my
imagination, that we hearing impaired can use up to 30% of our
available energy just trying to figure out what people are saying.
Unconsciously lip-reading. Asking our brain to fill in the blanks
from context. Sometimes getting it wrong, and not understanding the
Then I had another learning experience. My cat, during the
night, played hockey with one of my hearing aids, ending up with it
heaven knows where, and I wasn't able to find it. I looked for two
weeks, then gave up and bought another one. Because I learned
during those weeks that two aids are indeed better than one. Many
people I know have only one aid, and that one sits in the drawer
most of the time. Now I know why they don't wear it. It's just not
the same with only one ear conducting sound clearly. I, who had
been wearing my hearing aids 15 hours a day, wasn't bothering to
wear the one I had left. The improvement wasn't worth the trouble.
I found myself being frustrated and leaving my one lonely aid in
the drawer. Then my new one was fitted. Now I had two again, and I
was back to wearing them all day every day. It's true. We do need
I've heard from many sources that there is a perceived stigma to
using hearing aids. That it is a sign of aging. Well-I am aging. My
knees aren't what they used to be, I need glasses, my skin now
needs a lot of care to regain some of its youthful glow, my
'silver' hair is less abundant, but I live with it. Impaired
hearing is just a part of this natural process.
I'd rather admit that I am aging, wear hearing aids, recapture
sounds I had forgotten, than try to pretend I'm younger than I am
and appearing a little dim. I like hearing what those around me are
saying. I really like indulging my predilection for eavesdropping.
Especially when people have forgotten that I can hear now.
Also, my neighbors like me better, especially in the summer.
Why? It became clear to me as they joked that, when they sat on
their deck, they could watch TV through their patio door, without
bothering with the sound, because they could hear mine from my
upstairs window. Which worked well when our TV choices were the
same. They are very good, very kind young people and hadn't figured
out how to tell me without hurting my feelings. They say their
summer evenings are better now.
I am one of the few who didn't have to be dragged kicking and
screaming to have my hearing checked. When I realized I couldn't
eavesdrop on what those on the other side of the table were telling
each other, that I was saying "I beg your pardon?" too often, when
I had to keep telling my granddaughter to stop mumbling, I knew I
had to do something before others got after me. It was a good
Is there a downside? The cost. I agonized over the cost. I do
wish hearing aids were less expensive. Maybe a word in the ear of
our government? (pun intended). Having said that, the overall
improvement in my life has been worth it. If I had to, I could live
without them. I did before. I'm glad I don't have to.
Oh, and my granddaughter really does mumble. I just hear the
mumble louder, now. I guess translating teen-speak isn't one of the
benefits. Oh well.
Now, if the batteries only lasted a little longer...