About a dozen years ago I knew that my hearing was not as good as it used to be. During an extended bout of dizziness that turned out to be due to an inner ear infection, the ENT specialist ordered a hearing test. It revealed a decline in the upper frequencies. “Not enough at this point that you should get hearing aids but definitely something to keep an eye on.” Another infection five years later, another hearing test. “You should probably think about getting hearing aids; there’s a definite loss in the upper frequencies that is affecting your hearing.” Two years ago, after going to a training session and being made painfully aware that it wasn’t as slight a decline as I’d tried to pretend, I went to a hearing aid clinic. And left without making a purchase.
Why? It’s complicated.
Middle-aged ego forced to acknowledge that “middle” was becoming something of a euphemism? Yep. Hearing aids are undeniable evidence of markedly declining physical ability. Undeniable and visible to others. “Hey, there’s an old man here. Certainly ain’t what he used to be, is he?!”
Inconvenience? Well, yeah. You like having something stuck in your ears? Of course, if I was forty years younger I would have been wearing ear buds since toddlersville. But to be chic, you had to have tiny cords attached from the ear bud to some electronic device. The closest I ever got to “chic” was the last time I bought Chiclets and that would have been in the Eighties…
Cheapskate? Ouch, that’s painfully close to truth, or at least truth somewhat adulterated by factors One and Two listed above. Might be more excuse than reason but it definitely has some reason-like qualities.
You can buy an iPhone with the equivalent technological processing capability of the first three lunar missions for under a thousand bucks. All the technology of hearing aids plus exponentially more than that. An incredible computer shrunk to palm size. Hearing aids? Unless you’re willing to take a chance with an online purchase from an unheard of manufacturer—”Hey, I used to be an engineer and a buddy and I made these in my garage”—you’re going to be paying from four to six times the price of an iPhone. And in many if not most cases, without any reimbursement from insurance. So yes, the economic aspect was a huge factor in my reluctance.
Eventually, though, you weigh the price of exclusion, embarrassment, missing out and not being able to function effectively in professional and personal roles and you decide that if you’ve done without a nice bass boat for this many years, you can probably make it a while longer without that luxury. So, instead of having a 200 horsepower Ranger Pro parked in the driveway, I’ve been wearing hearing aids since October. They’ve definitely helped. I’m saying “Yes, ma’am” more frequently than “Huh?” at home now and can understand at least ninety percent of what’s said in administrative council meetings.
One of the most awkwardly affirming moments about my investment was when I called my oldest son a couple of weeks after my reluctant purchase. “Well, I finally got myself some hearing aids” I confessed in a somewhat forlorn tone of voice. Without even a hint of respectable hesitation, Mike responded, “Good, you should have done that years ago.”
That’s true for a lot of our pride-driven reluctances, isn’t it? Sometimes admitting what everyone else already knows takes more effort than it should. But it’s still worthwhile and definitely better late than never.