Yesterday, I made it about one-quarter the way to the grocery store before I had to turn back. No, I didn’t forget my wallet or to check the taps or the kettle — I forgot to put in my hearing aids.
I very rarely forget to put them in. Without them, the world around me is eerily quiet and this is hard not to notice. But it happens sometimes. Once, I got to work without them and I had go back home as I had a meeting later in the day. Plus, my colleagues prefer it when I respond to them. (Or maybe they’d like a day where I wasn’t so chit-chatty. I’ll have to ask.)
I probably could’ve managed to buy groceries, but navigating the downtown streets is a bit dangerous. I can’t hear cars or bicycles coming up behind me until it’s far too late to leap out of the way. I would have to speech read if anyone asked me any questions.
And for some strange reason, I get asked questions all the time — typically directions, but also plenty of other random things, too. I think I look friendly.
I sometimes get asked questions about my hearing. I don’t mind. Here are some of the most common:
Q: Do you sleep with them in?
No, I don’t. I take them out and place them into a special disinfecting and drying device. Moisture and earwax (ick, I know) are the two biggest enemies of hearing aids. Taking care to make sure they are clean and dry helps them to last longer. And taking good care of them is important…
Q: Are they expensive?
Yes, quite. I do get funds from the Ontario Disability Support Program as well as from my private workplace insurance. Together they cover about one-quarter of the cost. Yes, one quarter.
Q: So how much?
Let’s just say you could buy a good used car for the same amount of money. Or a fabulous two-week European vacation for two. They are one of the most expensive things I own — and they are not even pretty or glittery.
There are, of course, significantly cheaper models on the market and they work quite well for retired people who don’t need top-notch hearing for 8 (or longer) hours a day. But I need the most advanced pair available, since my job requires me to attend meetings, talk on the phone and communicate with people in many settings. I frankly could not work in my field without them.
Luckily, I can usually get away with buying a new pair every three to five years. Five years if I am lucky and take really good care of them — three if I am not. That is not usually a super happy year. Fewer shoes, less sushi — maybe no trip to New York. I’d rather not think about it. I really should save up for them well in advance, but that’s a topic for another blog post.
Q: How did this happen?
I was born with nerve deafness in both of my ears. It has gotten (somewhat) worse as I have gotten older. I don’t expect it to get much more worse, but even if it does, modern technology makes it (fairly) easy to deal with. I also have a wonderful audiologist and he’s been a huge help to me over the years. If you ever need a recommendation, just ask me. I would suggest him in a second.
Q: Do you use an alarm clock?
Yes, a very loud one. I can hear very loud noises — and I am sure my neigbours can, too. They do make vibrating alarm clocks (they shake the bed — wheee) but I’ve yet to try one.
Q: Can you talk on the phone?
At work, yes. I have a pretty marvelous amplification device. On my cellphone? Not so well. Mostly I text and/or email during non-work hours. I can talk on the phone if it’s unavoidable, but it’s not easy. I do own a bluetooth device that makes it easier to talk on my cell, but it seems to not work very well anymore. I probably need to get an upgraded model and I will the next time I get new hearing aids.
Q: What is the worst thing about your hearing loss?
It’s not really that bad. Things could be a lot worse. Besides, I’ve always had to deal with it.
Q: No, really Miss Pollyanna. It can’t be all sunshine.
Hmmm, I can’t really hear whispering and I can’t eavesdrop on other people, which could be quite interesting, I imagine. Noisy restaurants and bars are challenging.
Oh, and once I am tucked into bed for the night, that’s pretty much it. The good part about this? Traveling with friends who snore or like to watch TV before bed is not a problem. Hell, rock music would not be that much of a problem. The bad part? If someone actually wanted to talk to me after dark and under the covers — well, I do my best but that’s probably the best place to ask me things…I can hardly hear and I am bound to just say yes to any questions posed. Yes is often the better answer than no. Ask any hearing impaired person.