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The Wonders Of Modern Hearing Aids

Several years ago, when my 83-year-old mom was visiting us, we were in our kitchen – wife Susan was at the sink, my mom and I were sitting at the island in the middle of the room. Suddenly my mom said, kind of laughingly, “You guys really crack me up; you are both just talking to yourselves to beat the band.”

Actually, we were carrying on a conversation, but mom’s hearing had deteriorated so much at this point she couldn’t hear us.

Another time in a restaurant in Boulder, Colo., the pay phone was at the bottom of the stairs in the middle of the place. I owed my mom a call, and this was the first opportunity. But, as Susan tells it, the entire restaurant was listening: “It’s me, Mom, Jerry. We’re in Colorado … No, Mom, not Cherrie, she’s there in California with you. It’s me, Jerry … no, Mom, YOUR SON, JERRY … AREN’T YOU WEARING YOUR HEARING AIDS? … MOM, TURN DOWN THE TV! … IT’S ME, JERRY!” And so it went.

As both my mom and dad began to lose their hearing in their late 70s and early 80s, it became very frustrating, and trying to get them to use their hearing aids was of little help because the hearing aids themselves were a source of frustration.

I’d be talking to them, and suddenly there was this loud feedback whine coming from one of their hearing aids and they’d look around the room wondering where it was coming from. Or the batteries were too small for them to manipulate. Or, as they were trying to put the little earpieces on (or in), one would fall on the floor and bounce under the bed or the dresser, or for sure under something. I’m sure many readers can relate.

So, I was determined to never put Susan or my kids through that frustration as I aged.

Anyway, I got my referral from the VA to the hearing aid place, had my hearing checked and, of course, a decade or so of screaming jets on aircraft carrier decks had taken its expected toll. I have been saying “What?” to Susan’s comments more and more lately, to the point where I’d actually think about what I thought I’d heard her say and, if it didn’t make sense, I’d purposely fake it (hello, Mom) rather than come back with another “What?” and incur her frustration.

I got my first hearing aids yesterday morning and wore them for the rest of the day. It reminded me of the day I got my first pair of eyeglasses at Clark Air Force Base after seven years of deteriorating eyesight as a POW, and wow! I could hardly believe all that I’d been missing. I felt like I was suddenly living inside a magnified snow globe.

I got the same shock with my hearing: What have I been missing?! I feel like I’m now living inside an acoustically perfect concert hall. The biggest shock was the sound of my own voice reverberating inside my skull. Talking more softly now, I go outside and hear birds and insects galore.

Hearing aid technology has not been standing still. The main body of the instrument, the amplifier, hangs behind the ear on a tiny, clear-plastic tube that comes over the top of the ear and against the temple. It connects to a soft, mushroom-shaped earpiece that goes into the ear canal just deep enough to be out of sight from most angles. The little clear, plastic tube blends easily into the graying hair at my temple, so the fact that I’m even wearing hearing aids hardly is apparent.

The volume easily is adjusted by touch. Just select one of five levels denoted by one through five little chirps. When a little voice says “battery,” I change the battery, which seems much easier than when my poor mom was trying to do it.

Well, maybe it’s true: Today’s 80 is yesterday’s 65, with a big boost from technology.