Hearing aids? Never! As far as I concerned they are the first of a long list of concessions on the road to geezerdom. Too bad they can’t come up with laser surgery. It’s a status symbol now to be over 70 and walk about without eyeglasses. Put that cashew shaped capsule behind your ear, however, it’s all over. You just moved a step closer to the land of the bewildered.
Resisting hearing was aids a matter of pride. I’d return from annual audiologist visit with proof I was still on the side of the youthful and vigorous. “Look,” I’d proclaim to wife, “my hearing is within normal range except for the higher frequencies, and everyone loses them over time.” She was downcast, almost despondent.. She tired of my asking, “What did he say?” with the TV blasting away like a howitzer.
A bout of bronchitis changed my mind. I got up one morning unable to breathe. My air passages were shut off completely. I grabbed the drawstring on my pajamas and staggered barefoot in the kitchen.
“Call 911!” I gasped.
“No, Get to my car. I’ll take you to the emergency room,” my wife replied with remarkable calm. “It’ll be quicker.”
“Call 911,” I croaked again afraid I was going to pass out. The vision of me in bare feet clutching his draw string pajamas to keep my ass covered on the way to her car made dying somehow an option at the moment. Then suddenly the blockage cleared. My throat rattled. My lungs wheezed. My windpipe had been clogged shut by a sinus infection. The crisis, now over, marked the beginning of more serious hearing trouble.
Age Eliminated as a Factor . . .
My right ear stayed plugged. Tests revealed hearing loss, especially pronounced on my right side. No more denials. I could always say I held out until age 81. Now, I now had a manly reason. The loss resulted from a disabling virus, age being eliminated as a factor.
I found top of the line in hearing aids meant about $5,800 for a pair. They would be guaranteed against loss or damage for three years. When I asked why only three years, I was told a pair is only expected to last five years. “Then you will want to upgrades,” the doctor told me.
Five years? $5,800? We can send a space capsule to Mars trusting its systems will work for decades, but hearing aids fail after four, maybe five years? I took the literature home and studied it. Top of the line hearing aids are a multifunctional extension of your brain. They keep track of your activity. Whether you active or sedentary? Interactive with others. This may be clever stuff, but it seemed to me If a person really needs to know how active he has been and whether engaged with others, he’s probably not competent to understand the data when it’s presented.
Following Your Every Move . . .
The information hearing aids collect is stored somewhere, after all. Who has access to it? If my hearing aids know where I go, then they know when I’m in Costo, or McDonalds, or the ballpark, wherever. I’m confess I am slightly paranoid. Still, I don’t want to make it easy for anyone spying on how I go about living every day.
But that’s not all, with Bluetooth (who in blazes came up with that name anyway), hearing aids become a wireless extension of your cell phone. You get to look like a moron who walks around talking to himself. Download music to your phone and listen to it. Great stuff. Ah, solitude in the midst of everyday life. Just imagine. Glenn Gould enjoyed listening to the hubbub of a crowd. Hearing aids can also receive audio from a Bluetooth equipped TV. Of course, that’s pretty much the end of conversation with anyone who is watching with you. Get this. If that person wants to be heard, they have SHOUT! Ha! We’re right back where we started from.
Expensive hearing aids minimize tinnitus, that non-stop ringing in your ears Hearing aids can also protect the unstable elderly wearer when alone. If the person falls, the hearing aid will time how long the subject has been other than vertical and if it exceeds a set limit, a next to kin will be called. If the next of kin doesn’t answer, the hearing aid calls 911. All for almost $2,000 a year if you prorate the cost of the guarantee. I settled for a less expensive pair.
Subtle Sounds are Back . . .
Turns out, I actually like hooking up the hearing aids to the phone. It keeps my hands free. The signal is clear. I didn’t want to give up on fidelity. I love my music. I am very pleased with the difference hearing aids make listening to my speakers. The music from the stereo now has depth. I get a clear audio image. The subtle sounds are back – the violinist’s bow first touching the string, the guitarist’s hand squeaking on the neck of the instrument, the valve on the organ pipes closing, the drummer’s brushes. It was all so much more present and vivid. I was thrilled.
I didn’t know I was missing the sound of birds in flight. The ticking of leaves blown along the sidewalk. The click-clicking of my auto’s turn signal. I had lost all of this slowly over the years. Now to have it all restored, virtually overnight, is exciting and very gratifying. My tinnitus has not gone away but it is greatly reduced. I have worn them every day now for two months. I can’t imagine going a day without them. Not such a bad thing, I concede, for someone who imagines himself a gray activist. God knows how I will feel when I am presented with a walker. I suppose I will be grateful that I can still get about.