For me, old age began the day when, for the third time in five minutes, I uttered the words, “Whadya say?” and the other person screamed back, “For God’s sake, get a hearing aid!”
I admit it. For years I’d been in denial about my gradual hearing loss.
I associated it with diminished virility. Blamed it on wax buildup, people who didn’t speak distinctly or high female voices that were audible only to household pets.
When I finally ran out of plausible explanations, I gave in to visiting an audiologist and the ignominy of being seated in a soundproof box, earphones on, straining to respond to a Gen Y technician with a tattoo on her neck.
Fifteen minutes later it was official: “Mr. Anthony has significant hearing loss in both ears and could benefit from amplification devices.” My wife, who had foretold the results, took a victory lap.
Within a week I was festooned with solicitations from hearing aid purveyors within a 50-mile radius, which made me wonder about the privacy forms I sign when people in white poke at different parts of my body.
I was confronted with a plethora of hearing enhancement devices: behind-the-ear, in-the-ear, in-the-canal, completely-in-the-canal, invisible-in-the-canal, custom-formed, analog, digital, wireless, removable, not-so-removable.
Prices, too, vary, from $14.95 for an “amplification device” ordered from a magazine ad, up to more than $3,500 each for a peek-a-boo hearing aid that stays in your ear canal until the battery has to be changed or you hear extraterrestrial sounds throughout the night.
Here’s another surprise: Hearing aids only last a few years. I thought if I wrote a check for $6,000 for practically invisible hearing aids, they would outlast me. Not so.
Whatever you purchase, the experts say you have to have two of them. Otherwise, your hearing will be off balance. So you have to pay for stereophonic sound, especially if you’re the first violinist in an orchestra.
I’ve learned there is no perfect solution to hearing loss. Some people have amplification devices surgically implanted in their skulls and swear by them. That’s not for me. Not yet, anyway.
The first step is to find an audiologist with whom you can establish a long-term relationship because your hearing aids will have to be adjusted and maintained from time to time. And you’ll want to have periodic checkups to determine whether your hearing loss has gotten any worse.
There is plenty of useful information on the Internet. The site I recommend is the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
There is one benefit of hearing loss. I have become proficient at reading lips.
Richard J. Anthony, Sr. is executive vice president of GRAND Magazine (www.grandmagazine.com). He is author of Organizations, People & Effective Communication. He is also founder of The Entrepreneurs Network, a venue for aspiring and serial entrepreneurs and accredited angel investors. He is a member of the adjunct faculty at Villanova University. He recently led a project for the Delaware County Community Foundation to provide easy, multimedia access to county residents 50+ and their families to information about volunteerism, lifelong learning and employment.
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