I turned 50 in December, but my ears were already retired. I’d go to corporate events or to happy hours and smile a lot when people talked. I had long ago stopped asking more than once if I couldn’t hear someone in those environments. If I was lying on my right side in bed and my wife said something, I could only tell that she was speaking, not even guess what she’d said. In our kitchen, with little or no background noise, I’d often ask her to repeat herself. When we’d go on walks, it was important that she walk on my right, since I wouldn’t be able to carry on a conversation if she was on my left. Playing baseball (in an over 48 league!) I’d smile and nod when one of the other outfielders would shout some advice that was simply from too far away.
Last year, my mother-in-law asked me to go to a luncheon offered by an audiologist to talk about hearing aids. I assumed it was because she remembered that we shared the problem of hearing loss. She didn’t, so she was surprised when I was excited about it. I’d been asking my doctor each year when they did the hearing test if it was time to get hearing aids. Those problems noted above really bothered me. This year, he said, “Maybe.” The luncheon was marvelously informative and I set up an appointment to have my hearing checked. Due to the price tag, I held off to reconsider getting them. Thousands of dollars requires more than a few minutes of thought. I had in mind about half of the number they cited.
A few months later, they had another luncheon and this time, I took Melissa. They gave me a pair to try. It was a world of difference. You know, I thought the turn signal on my truck didn’t make noise anymore. It does. I just wasn’t hearing it.
While I had the trial hearing aids, a friend of my mother-in-law came into town. We were all sitting the kitchen table discussing hearing aids and especially that someone in particular didn’t want people to think she is “old”. So, her friend who is a several years younger than her says, “I’m wearing mine.” No one had ever noticed. The behind-the-ear hearing aids were about the same color as her hair and you couldn’t notice unless you leaned in close and pushed her hair aside. She also solved my concern over the price. Costco sells hearing aids and for a fraction of the price. However, not every Costco has audiologists on staff – some only have hearing aid technicians. If your local Costco doesn’t have audiologists, you probably are better off going to an independent audiologist, just as you wouldn’t go to someone who wasn’t a surgeon for heart surgery.
Many people worry that people will think they’re old if they see the hearing aids. The truth is, they probably can’t see them and…. people already know you can’t hear them. When you just nod and smile at conversation or bring up topics that have been discussed five minutes ago, people notice. Then, you look old AND stubborn. I’m only 50 and I could care less if people notice. I tell people about them all the time. A couple of the guys in my office who are in their 30s spent too much time in rock-and-roll, so are considering getting them.
If you’re not hearing people, it causes a lot of problems. You don’t hear important things — like what your doctor tells you about your health or medication. Imagine hearing that a “1 in 2” surgeries results in death, instead of “1 or 2%” of surgeries result in death. You may not hear when a loved one says, “I love you”. You answer different questions than people asked. You laugh when everyone else does, even if you didn’t hear the punchline. You miss out on lots of interaction and life gets dull. You may develop a tendency to avoid places where hearing may be difficult, like restaurants, and end up avoiding other social situations. These compound each other and you feel isolated. Isolation can lead to emotional issues, like depression, or even lead to dementia (if you’re the only one you can hear in your world, it gets real hard to connect to reality).
So, if you’re missing conversational bits or find that “people talk too fast”, get yourself checked. People are not talking faster – your ears don’t hear every letter anymore, so it takes you longer to figure out what they actually meant to say. There are some sounds, like the f or ph or s, that I simply can’t hear without my hearing aids because those pitches are simply bad for me. If you miss two or three letters in every word, your brain can’t figure out what the words were. One joke I often told was that “as I got older, people said more interesting things” because I couldn’t hear what they actually said and my brain guessed wrong!
If you don’t think you need them and that nobody has noticed, ask someone.
* While I don’t use Duracell batteries, that’s a great commercial AND they have a portion of their website dedicated to it.