An Understated Miracle

Consigned to the Junk DrawerI remember the first day I got glasses. I don’t think I had realized my vision was so bad. I thought that all those folks who claimed see each individual leaf on each tree were just exaggerating. So I didn’t mind not seeing. After all, what was wrong with walking around in an impressionist painting?

I put glasses on and it was a instant miracle. I walked slowly, getting used to the heightened sensations, looking in amazement at each individual leaf on each tree. Who knew? I was dazed and exhilarated.

Hearing aids weren’t like that. They told me they wouldn’t be. They told me I would have to learn to hear again. They told me that the volume on the devices would ramp up gradually, and things would get better. The woman who fitted and refitted my aids also told me my hearing loss was unusual; not strictly age-related; and that an operation would give me a better result than hearing aids.

But I don’t like knives. Or hospitals. Or not being able to lift grandchildren. Hearing aids were so…so…noninvasive.

When I first got them, I was determined to be conscientious and wear them all the time. The third day, I put them in, forgot them, and proceeded to clean out my motor-home. I stripped beds, removed clothes, and laundered sheets. Then I did some inside housework.

At that point, I reached in back of my ears to take the aids off.

They weren’t there. I pictured them caught up in the sheets that were now in the washing machine. I wondered if I had just thrown away five thousand dollars worth of electronic equipment that I had only used for 3 days.

After we found them, several hours later, I was less inclined to wear them all the time. And, more inclined to compulsively, inconspicuously check to see if they were in place.

It wasn’t the miracle that I was hoping for. I think my problem was that the deterioration in the bones in my left ear was rapid and outpaced any built-in volume increase. Because I wouldn’t have minded inconvenience, or sigma, or anything, if they had only worked like glasses.

I don’t mean that the hearing aids didn’t work, or that I didn’t use them. I put them on whenever I left the house. I put them on at home whenever my kids came over. I put them on whenever my husband got on the phone. (I don’t know about your family, but my go-to method for figuring out what my husband is up to is to actively eavesdrop.)

My life was definitely better with the hearing aids than without the hearing aids.

But. I started to choose my friends based on how loudly they talked.

And. I could never hear the jokes. I could clearly hear the praise and platitudes spoken loudly and solemnly during wedding toasts, only to fail to catch that one comment, the comment that left everyone in the room spitting gin and tonic out of their nostrils.

“What?” I’d cry. “What did he say?!”

But it was no good; the speaker was already on to the next fascinating revelation; once again winking knowingly and just slightly lowering the decibel level…

“What?” I’d cry. “What did he say?”

And although in most situations, I could hear, it took effort. My relaxing girls-out-luncheon turned into a marathon of concentration, and I left wondering why I felt so drained.

In my own house, sometimes I wore the aids and sometimes I didn’t. I’m not sure why I resisted. They aren’t more uncomfortable than glasses. The cost of batteries certainly didn’t break my budget.

My theory is that the they distorted my ability to tell where sounds were coming from. I wasn’t sure whether that mysterious thump was from the basement or the attic. It gave me a continuing vague sense of unease. And it didn’t always work.

“Honey, your tea is whistling” my husband would say.

“What?” I’d say to my husband. “What was that?”

“You don’t you have your ears in, do you?” he’d sigh.

“Yes!” I’d pleads. “Yes, I do…I do…but I still can’t hear…”

Then, as things got worse, I couldn’t always hear the folks in the supermarket. They would ask me questions, and I would answer randomly; ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Life took on a certain improvisational vibe. I got angry when people asked me unimportant things. I didn’t want to say “What?” or pretend that I heard them and smile, and nod. I went home and sulked in silence.

Yeah, it was time for the knife.

“High time.” my husband agreed.

I was very lucky to have an option. I was probably stupid to have not taken it sooner.

But now it’s over. I can lift my grandchildren and I can hear. I don’t yet have an “official” confirmation of success, so I don’t know if my hearing will be deemed “normal. I still wear a hearing aid in my right ear, and will put it in when I go to weddings, to church, to book group and those relaxing girls out luncheons.

But otherwise I don’t wear them. Not even to eavesdrop. Now I can tell whether the thump is coming from the basement or the attic. I feel like I used to feel. I’m writing this now to record how it was just a month ago because I hope I soon forget it.

Today, it’s an understated miracle, and I’m very grateful.

1 comment to An Understated Miracle

  • Glad you came to terms with the hearing aids. they are hard to get used to, that’s for sure. the first ones I had gave me a splitting headache, but the ones that fit in the ear are better. I wear mine all the time, except when I want to be quiet in the studio. Richard refuses to wear his, and it is a battle we have anytime he drives out. I told him if he does not wear them. I’m taking the car keys. A bit Draconion, but what to do? can’t have him driving around not being able to hear properly.

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