It’s hot! I stick my head in the frig to gather ingredients … half an onion, freshly gathered carrots, crisp red lettuce, cukes and one perfect avocado that I plan on tossing into a big salad for a cool and refreshing meal. I think I’ll add some Feta and a few pitted Kalamata olives. In the background I hear Bill speaking to me, but the whirr of the refrigerator gets in the way and I end up shouting, “I can’t hear you!” I pull my head away from the frig and he’s raised his voice, repeating whatever the message is he’s trying to get to me. He’s right there, in the kitchen with me. Never mind that we often try to have conversations when we are in different parts of the house. Visitors might find it hilarious to hear us going back and forth with, “What was that you said?” while the decibels rise.
The other night, we were having a conversation at the dinner table, when I misheard what he was saying and attached a whole new meaning to his words. In crowded, people-filled places like theatre lobbies, cocktail parties and the like, I find it difficult to hear what the person right next to is saying. Background chatter builds until I finally have to give up, move outside into a less noisy environment or just shake my head, agreeing to whatever is being said to me. Could it be I’ve agreed to some judgemental comment my friend has just made? Have I agreed to help her kill her husband? I’m left not knowing and often wonder why people look at me questioningly after such a conversation.
It’s been coming on for years. I had my hearing tested a while back, and was found to have good hearing. But I still felt that I was missing something. It could be either my head or my hearing. Then someone pointed out to me that we often hear only what we want to hear. So I let it go until a month ago. I asked my doctor for the name of an audiologist she would recommend. I was simply tired of missing out on what was being said around me, tired of agreeing to things I didn’t understand and ready to find out what was going on.
So yesterday, I found myself in a booth, pushing a button when sound waves of different pitches were sent through my earphones and I heard them. I found out that I have mild hearing loss in both ears, particularly in the high frequency range. It’s not too bad, she told me, but still I’m missing hearing consonant sounds like ess and tee.
I thought of Bill’s Godmother who died recently. Her hearing had been compromised for years. We would visit, sitting in her living room having to shout and repeat over and over again what we were saying in order for her to be included in our conversation. She had found hearing aids to be too uncomfortable and after one or two tries, simply refused to use them. I thought of not being able to hear my grandkids on the phone or in person as the years go by. I thought of not being able to enjoy the early morning bird chorus on warm, summer days, and I thought of not being able to hear Bill say, “I Love you.”
I came home wearing a tiny hearing aid in each ear that had been programmed just for me. I am enthralled with the difference in what I can hear. I now hear esses and tees and the directional blinkers in my car. I hear clearly what is being said to me. It will take a while to be really comfortable with them and I’m only to use them two or three hours a day to start. Best of all, they are practically invisible and almost weightless and I don’t need to use them all the time. I have thirty days to try them out at which time I can return them for a full refund if I choose.
The only thing left to do is to get Bill to have his hearing tested. He, too, is beginning to repeat, “What did you say?”