This last week I received hearing aids and I was glad to get them. Hearing aids have always been something that people do not really want. Hearing aids have a negative image and therefore many people do not want to use them. It is somewhat like wearing glasses. It hasn’t been until recently that wearing glasses was a positive image. Many people fight the fact that they had to wear glasses and that they would have to use hearing aids. First, neither one of these items are something new to the human condition. I think it was the thought that the person that wore glasses and hearing aids was somehow less of a person in the eyes of those around them. That is probably why many people will use Lasik surgery to correct their vision so they do not have to wear glasses. Some people will use contact lenses rather than wear a pair of glasses. Any other way of correcting one’s vision usually requires some kind of equipment, even just a magnifying glass.
But when it comes to hearing the choices are much smaller. There are very few hearing problems that can be corrected by surgery. One of the worst hearing problems of ringing in the ears cannot be corrected. This is one the problems that I have. There is this constant ringing noise that was the result of being near some bombs in Vietnam. But in the last 10 years I have experienced some loss of hearing. In the past five years I had taken several hearings exams and I was informed that I had minimal hearing loss. Well I think if you would have spoken to anyone who was around me very often, they would tell you that I have a definite hearing loss. The most obvious symptom is that I have to turn up my television volume to be able to hear what is being said. A person with good hearing could set the volume at 32. I would set the volume at 52. To another irritating problem of losing my hearing, is that I’m constantly asking somebody to repeat what they said to me. Most recently, I asked my wife if she could face me when she was talking to me.
So this last year I went to the VA and requested another hearing tests. The person that examined me informed me that I had a hard time hearing high pitched sounds. And he prescribed some hearing aids for me. Unlike other people who may receive that information and fight it, I was excited to know that I would get some hearing aids. Of course there are a lot of hearing aids on the market. Some of them are almost completely invisible. If you remember any relatives who had hearing aids in the past, you might think of a hearing aid of a small plastic device that was visibly stuck into the ear channel. And of course, the veteran’s administration has a very limited choice in hearing aids. I expected that I would be given that same plastic ear plug that I’d seen in others. To my surprise, there was a hearing aid that employs a small plastic piece that goes behind the ear and then a small clear tube that leads to the inside of the ear. I would not say that they were invisible but certainly they were less visible.
The person that was examining me began to apologize for such a small choice of hearing aids. I told him that I was thrilled to get anything. For me it is an issue of the quality of life. I already use some reading glasses so that I can use my computer. My doctor has a me on medications to improve my health. Many times after a lot of physical activity I ware a brace or some kind of support for my ankles, knees and wrists. At 68 years’ old I worry less about how cool I look. Although some people are vain, I feel comfortable in the way that I look. But I do recognize that as I’ve gotten older I need help accomplishing things that were so easy when I was young.
I was so excited that I was going to get my hearing aids in less than a month, I actually started counting the days when I would receive them. When the day came, I drove over 1 hour through beautiful country roads to the city of Longview’s VA facility. I had no idea how involved it was to operate the small hearing aids. After about 45 minutes of instruction I was given my hearing aids. As I placed them in my ears and was walking out of the clinic, I quickly started to realize that I could pick up the conversations of other people as I walked by them. As I set down in my truck I could actually hear the noise that the seat made when I sat in it. And as soon as I turned the ignition on I realize how loud my radio volume was. After quickly turning it down, I began to laugh. As I drove home I began to notice the different sounds that the road made. I could even hear the slight sound of some papers that were in the backseat to the truck.
As soon as I got home, I was greeted by my wife. She quickly looked at the hearing aids and began a conversation with me. I stopped her in her questions and asked her not to yell at me. We both laughed and I use a mechanism on the hearing aid to turn down its power. As the day when on I began to recognize some sounds that I probably have not heard for a while. Even when walking my dog along the path I could hear the sound of small sticks breaking underneath my feet. As I sat down on a bench near my pond, I threw out my fishing line and heard a new sound of the line as it exited the reel.
I was informed that I could not wear these hearing aids while in water or if I sweated a lot. I was also advised not to wear them while I was around machinery and loud tools. All those things are OK with me. I know that I was not deaf and that I could hear the noises in my environment. I just had not realize how I did not hear many of the noises that were around me every day.
Of course now, I cannot use the excuse of telling my wife that I did not hear what she said because my hearing was bad. And I certainly do not miss saying the word, “what”.
I am thrilled to have my hearing aids and I really don’t care if I look cool or not. At my age, I am looking at the quality of life that I still have remaining. I’m sure that someday I will have to use some kind of walking aid. But for now I’m feeling good.
I’ll hear you later, pops.