Friday, December 10, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

My mother lost her hearing in an accident about 15 years ago. Falling on the back of her head on a curb, she cracked the inner-ear bones in both her ears. She was headed with my dad, a physician mind you, to visit my sister in Iowa. I wanted her to cancel the trip, but they would have nothing of it. I reluctantly put them on the plane, calling my sister to say best of luck. It would be an interesting visit. Diagnosed while there, she came home. (Can you imagine flying with broken bones in both ears?) And when my husband picked her up at the airport, she told him the radio was dragging like an old 8-track tape.

It was not that bad with me. I didn't break anything, just in the last few years, my hearing apparently has faded somewhat, like my vision, but unlike my vision, I didn't know what I wasn't hearing. My children mumbled, and well, don't all twenty-somethings mumble? I had to turn the tv up loud, but well, doesn't everybody, except for the commercials?

Last Christmas, when our family gathered, the stories flew, as usual. My sister admitted that she had had a hearing test, and that hear aids were recommended, to which my husband and children said: Susan can't hear anything. I will admit I was having trouble understanding the low talkers during staff meetings, the people who whispered to me, all the time. But I was not deaf, not by a long shot.

As part of my self-improvement plan for 2010, I went to the doctor with a series of complaints, including bunions and by the way, I have trouble hearing. He did a test, and I didn't believe he was actually pressing the little button that buzzed, because I could not hear it at all. On to the ENT, and to the audiologist. My mother admitted she was losing her hearing before she lost it completely.

And so, I got hearing aids. At Costco. COSTCO! I love Costco. But I wasn't sure I wanted to get my hearing aids there. But my husband, who is frugal, suggested it. And so I reluctantly visited their hearing center, taking my test, which showed I had lost much of the high pitched sound and some of the low. Women's voices, birds (though I swear I can hear them fine in the morning,) voice recognition, which explains why my children were mumbling (I stand by my statement above, however.)

They retested me, and the results were the same. Then they turned on a hearing aid with my prescription. Oh my, the world is much, much louder than I thought. The first time I put my own hearing aids in my ears (weeks later), I was upset. One more sign that I am getting older. And when I walked out, I could hear the clap of my shoes against the cement, the jingle of my keys in my hand, the traffic, and when my little friend Cheyney whispered to me, I could finally hear what she was saying. One wise decision indeed.

So now I hear, and though I am a few thousand dollars poorer, I am richer in hearing the world again, not having to tell people to speak up, to listen to the whispers I was missing. How can you listen, when you can't hear?