Celebrate Milestones: Even When They Hurt

Hearing Aids There are milestones in life. The day we get our first bike. The day we get our drivers’ license. The day we marry. The day our first child is born. The day we retire. The day our first grandchild is born.

These are treasured memories, and cause for celebration.

And, then, there are those ‘other’ milestones. The ones I don’t want to talk about. The day I stopped wearing a bathing suit in public. The day that I (and my husband and daughter) realized that although I could climb up a tree, I could no longer climb down. The day I switched from contacts to bifocals. The day that I realized I was never going to get a motorcycle, or hike the Appalachian trail.

It’s the milestones on way down that hurt and…I’m having another.

It all started with communication difficulties in our marriage.

“Lov…Listen to this!…mumble…mumble…Tracy …mumble…mumble… Max…mumble…”


“I said!”…Tracy and Max…”

“What?! What about Tracy and Max?”


“What? Wait a minute and I’ll come in there. You know I can’t hear you when the water’s running.”

“You know, you really ought to get you’re hearing checked…”


I had a cold. I figured that my ears were just blocked so I took some Sudafed (or what passes for Sudafed these days.) It made me wired but it didn’t unblock my ears.

Ack. It might time for truly desperate measures, I thought, even if they included listening to my husband.

I called my doctor.

“Nope.” he said. “There’s no wax and no blockage that I can see.”

I explained that, a few years ago, I had an operation on one of my ears.

“We’d better send you to an ENT.” he said.

I still held out hope that the cold had just caused a temporary blockage but in truth, I had to admit that my loss of hearing had been present for a while.

One day, I went to a restaurant with a friend, who I knew had hearing difficulties. I realized that she seemed to be able to hear me better than I could hear her. And, at church, it felt that I was working even harder than usual to focus on the sermon. I was struggling to do something that used to be effortless.

Even worse was the Lenten discussion group. I could hear most of what was said. Really. It just depended on what side of the room the speaker was sitting. I used to like discussion groups. There’s that challenge of trying to ‘nudge’, to present a different viewpoint without seeming to dismiss or argue. I want to picture myself as responsive. Plus I really like to talk. So it was a very insecure feeling to realize that when I said something, I hadn’t actually been able to hear everything that had been said previously. I worried that it would look like I was insensitive, not listening, or worse, ignoring other folks points of view.

It occurred to me that I should just keep my mouth shut, but…that was no fun. Discussion groups used to energize me, but, by the time I got home, I just felt exhausted. And old.

I still remember the day I got glasses. I was nine and it was wonderful! I don’t think I’ve ever had such a rush, not even in the 60’s. That day, everything was coming at me, and I loved it. I opened my eyes and took everything in. Who knew that you could see individual tree leaves? Or that they were so beautiful?

“Hearing aids aren’t like glasses.” the ear folks explained carefully, trying to dampen my expectations. “They take a while to get used to. You hear with your brain, not your ears.”

So today I am reluctantly reporting on my latest milestone. It’s an incomplete report because I am still in denial. I don’t want to be that person who needs hearing aids. And its not at all like putting on glasses.

The ear folks explained at some length how the devises work. They assured me that they’d help and that I’d soon get used to them. The handed me a user manual, a bunch of literature, and suggested that I come for a re-check after using them for a while.

So far, they definitely help. I just went to a wedding, and I could sit at the wedding table and hear what was said. Most of it anyway. Which is great. Maybe I would have heard better if I had read the manual, or experimented with the different settings. I won’t lie. I’m still in denial. It’s not a milestone that I want to talk about. Or even think about.

At the wedding, I talked with my mother-in-law (the one that just wrote her memoirs), and she gave me good advice.

“Use whatever helps.” she said. “Don’t be someone who refuses to use a walker and never goes anywhere.”

So I should really just quit writing this, put my ears in, read the manual and experiment a bit. I should take a deep breath and recognize that it takes grit and ingenuity to deal with those ‘other’ milestones. And have a little gratitude. I mean, you can’t even see those tiny hearing aids. That’s why my friend in the restaurant could hear me. She was wearing them. Who knew?

I should be grateful for technology. I should be grateful that I don’t have more age-related deficiencies. I should even be grateful that I have age-related deficiencies. After all, there is a word for people who have no age-related deficiencies. That word would be deceased.

Yeah. We celebrate milestones on the way up. The milestones on the way down evoke self-pity. But they really shouldn’t, coping is always worthy of celebration. And like my mother-in-law said.

“Use whatever helps. And keep walking. And hearing.”

And privately and quietly celebrate milestones. Even when they hurt.

2 comments to Celebrate Milestones: Even When They Hurt

  • Joanne

    Hey, CarolAne:

    Good to know I’m not the only family member who can’t hear any more! I’m not in denial, just hate to spend that much money for something that won’t work as well as eyeglasses do – although even they don’t work as well as the ones I got back when I was 6 or 7. Then there’s the knees, and all the other fun joints. But your mother-in-law is right, and her mother was, too. Nobody wants to be around an old moaner and groaner, and since we now seem to be the older generation, I guess that means US!!!

    I’ll make an appointment with my ENT and bite the bullet. Thanks for the push in the right direction – please let Aunt Peg know that I appreciate it (and would love to read her memoirs). Joanne

  • I have needed hearing aids for the last 20 years, don’t have them yet.

    Be really, REALLY happy you can afford them.

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