Shortly after we reestablished our sibling bonds, she developed hearing problems.
She solved any difficulty understanding what someone had said by issuing a loud and somewhat threatening “WHAT?”
She finally got hearing aids, but they didn’t seem to end the WHATs.
I think she just enjoyed issuing those terrifying interrogatives.
It seems that lately I’ve been influenced by her training. I’ve found myself saying, “WHAT?” more often than I liked. Especially if my wife had rounded a corner or was in a room different from the one holding me. Hopefully not said with the forcefulness of my sister, but often with a tinge of annoyance. Surely it must be another’s fault if I couldn’t understand them.
But, if I had to be honest, I could recall many a time when I had trouble hearing a speaker on a phone.
Further reflection reminded me of how often I’d been at gatherings and, in conversations, nodding up and down wearing a pasted smile and uttering such stimulating tidbits as “Uh huh” because I had no idea what was being said.
And all the TV shows I had difficulty understanding, until I became adept at following them with concentration on the captions.
Over time, a great deal of time, I began to wonder if I might just possibly need some hearing enhancement.
But the evidence kept building until finally I faced the truth.
I now am the new owner of two exorbitantly expensive devices that go around my ears and sneak inside them.
My, how things have changed!
Water running in the sink sounds like Niagara Falls.
The clicks of my dog’s nails as he trots along our wooden floor allow me to keep tabs on his location.
I hear crackling sounds coming from my wife’s phone as she talks without problem to an acquaintance, sounds that don’t seem to attract her attention.
I was told that over time, two months was mentioned, my brain would learn not to notice such distractions. In truth, they are not very disturbing. Almost interesting. Those two months are now up. I still hear the distractions, but they do not annoy.
And there are positives.
I can now hear my wife when she’s in another room, a fact which she has noticed.
I can now understand television shows more easily. Still not perfectly, but the captions are becoming less and less required.
There is an associated phone app that permits several neat modifications.
I told my audiologist when we first met that there were four situations where I especially wanted help:
- Hearing my wife from another room.
- Understanding someone who speaks softly.
- Hearing conversations in a crowded restaurant.
- Being able to carry on a conversation at a party surrounded by standing people having no trouble hearing.
As mentioned, number 1 is a winner.
Number 2 not so much. The hearing aids help, but conversation is far from perfect. On the other hand, those who speak softly have noted a definite improvement in my ability to understand enough to respond coherently.
I have been disappointed in numbers 3 and 4. One restaurant was very crowded and very noisy and I found myself saying, you guessed it, “What?” to my wife. On the other hand, she also uttered the word to me. Also at other restaurants I have been fine. I recently was at a political shindig at which a small room filled with a large number of people made it impossible for me to hear. But those with good hearing had the same problem.
So maybe I have to give a pass on numbers 3 and 4 since I probably can’t expect to improve poor hearing to beyond a point where even those with perfect hearing have problems.
And my audiologist works hard to adjust the devices. I have special settings, dictated from my phone, entitled “General.”, “TV,” “Restaurant,” and “Casual.” Most are fairly obvious. Still trying to understand “Casual.” I’ve become a guy fiddling with his phone as he tries the different possibilities. They do seem to make minor improvements.
As my trial period ended, I mulled and mulled and mulled whether I should return them and investigate the considerably cheaper ones at the big box store. I did not make the switch.
Many seem to avoid hearing aids. Either they don’t like to think their body is that much impaired or they don’t like others knowing their need. One of my former students whom I continue to see said she doesn’t understand that. I agree. Especially now where small size and battery rechargeablility have become common.
Furthermore, those hawking hearing aids have touted their help in forestalling dementia. I’ve also heard corroboration of this claim from independent sources, so maybe it’s true.
If nothing else, to me it’s a fun new toy that provides new opportunities to play. And hear.
So do I still say, “WHAT?”
Why should I?