I had an experience in maturity today--or growing old gracefully. I don't know what you'd call it, but I got hearing aids for the first time. I'd resisted, vowed to concentrate on what people were saying to me, listen more carefully in church, pay attention. But it became painfully aware that what two evaluations had told me was true: I had fairly severe hearing loss in both ears. One audiologist tried to hustle me into the first pair of aids that came to her fingertips, at least that was my impression, so I was turned off for months. But finally, with my good friend Jean for support, I went to another audiologist. He took an hour-and-a-half with me, found out lots about me, all the while figuring out what would suit me and what wouldn't.
One interesting thing he told me was that people with claustophobia (that's me, folks) don't like to have their ears plugged up--and was he right! When he took wax impressions of the inside of my ears, I had to have a firm talk with myself, saying "You are in the hands of a professional, and one of your best friends is seated two feet away." So I got behind the ear aids with an openwork piece that goes in my ear.
So today I started out with hearing aids. The first thing I noticed was that my own voice sounded extraordinarily loud in my head. It also sounded like I was stuffy or had a cold. Jean assured me I didn't sound any different than usual. We went to lunch at the local deli, and eating a pickle was the most amazing experience. It crackled all the way through my brain. I could hear other people in the restaurant, but I had a hard time hearing Jean. I thought I adjusted my remote control (I got the fancy Cadillac of hearing aids!) but it didn't help. And she said, "You're talking really softly." I told her it was because I felt like I was shouting, especially when repeating the story about granddaughter Edie's interest in my bum-bum. Jean assured me I wasn't shouting.
Back in the office, where it was quiet, I could hear my own breathing. When I walked across the office, I could hear that. Street noise and keyboard punchings seemed extraordinarily loud to me. Clearly I have a lot of adjusting to do, a lot of learning how to suit the aids to fit me. I wore them for five hours today--that's a source of pride--and I'm determined to keep it up.
But I felt a little like I did when I was told, at 36, that I'd have to take hypertension medicine the rest of my life: this is what it's going to be forever? Yet I'm grateful that I had the resources to buy the kind of aids that don't whistle and sing to me And I'm going to make this work!