Hearing Aids or stay isolated in my quiet cocoon?

The back story. My family has a history of being a bit hard of hearing. My grandfather wore hearing aids. My father needed them. I remember being tested some time back where they said I had some loss but no big deal. No big deal that is till recently when I asked my husband why he had the window open on one of our hot steamy summer nights. His reply: “To hear the crickets.” I got up and moved close to the open window and realized there were crickets. It was interesting that I couldn’t hear them until I moved close while he could hear them clearly while sitting on the floor. This is when I began to wonder what else I might be missing.

It is true that I don’t like going to restaurants because having a conversation is challenging. And true that I always prefer using my right ear to hear callers on the phone. It is also true that I have to turn the television or radio up fairly loud to hear the spoken words even though the music and other sounds are annoyingly too loud. The kicker is that I didn’t realize how much I had begun to shun away from social situations due to my having to ask people to repeat themselves over and over again. All of this I thought was just normal.

I went to the doctor. I asked him to check for ear wax, but he found none. I then asked about being tested and he pooh-poohed the notion saying that I could if I wanted to but they would just recommend hearing aids if there was a problem. Feeling embarrassed, I declined and went away. But it was still bothering me so when the opportunity came for a free screening at a health fair, I went over and did it. I was then invited to come to their office and get a more thorough check because my tests showed some loss in the higher ranges. A typical loss for someone who has been exposed to prolonged loud noises (can we say Rock Music with ear phones) and who is aging (this is NOT me!). Ok, I am aging but I am too young for this. However, given my family genetics and past ear abuse, it is not uncommon for a young person to need hearing aids. This notion of not being old enough just prolongs the inevitable.

The kicker was learning about what happens to the brain once those signals stop. The brain starts filling in the blanks (how many times has someone said, “I didn’t say that?”) and then it eventually forgets things which can lead to big problems down the road. Perhaps my father’s decline into dementia could have been slowed had he gotten hearing aids? I’ll never know. I want to keep my brain from losing connections and so I agreed to try out a pair of hearing aids.

I am amazed at what I have been missing! Things like the full sound of my own voice. When I got into the car, I actually turned the radio down and could still hear it perfectly. The television volume has come down. Paper crinkling now sounds like what foil used to sound like. Foil is something new altogether. I heard a new bird in the yard I hadn’t heard before. I could hear a single lizard rustling in the leaves. At dinner that first night, I asked my husband if the crickets were always that loud!? He replied “yes”. I then removed the aids and was shocked by the difference. Since then I was able to have a conversation in a restaurant; clearly hear vendors at a benefit fair in a loud crowded room; hear the clerk behind the sushi counter; and not once have I had to say “Excuse me?” or “I’m sorry” and turn my head to point my ear towards that person! I am in awe today and feel more alive and present with my life around me. I realize now how I had been kind of retreating into a quiet little cocoon without realizing it.

I don’t like the fact that I may be looking at a major purchase or having to admit that another part of my body doesn’t work like it used to. I don’t want to use these hearing aids but how can I not?

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