Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The ultimate friendship test

I took a walk with a friend who’s struggling with hypertension. Under stern orders to check her blood pressure four times a day and write it down, she’s discovered that certain friends send it soaring. She has no choice but to dismiss them from her life. What an excellent barometer of friendship!

Life inside a horror movie

So what’s it like to wear hearing aids for the first time? It’s a little like living in the sound track of a horror movie. Floors groan, doors squeak, clocks tick, people sigh, papers crackle, computer keys clack, sirens wail, the TV drones in the distance. And that’s on a quiet day. I’ve lived in Silent World so long that such things are novel and distracting. Then there are the sounds I can’t identify—the weird susurrations and beeps that must be the borborygmi of the universe, or at least the universe that is New York. 

Other than that, and the slight echo that halos speech, it’s great. I can hear what people say, even in a crowded room. “What?” is no longer my automatic response to any utterance. Indeed, now I can be the one who acts annoyed when someone asks “What?” 

But the idea of having a thing that costs as much as a Mac Pro stuck in each ear makes me nervous. I keep rubbing the bits behind my pinnas—they sound like sandpaper when they’re on—to reassure myself that they’re still there. And I can’t quite imagine wearing earrings anymore. Too much stuff to load onto one flap of flesh.

Every day I wake up curious about what new sounds I’ll hear, what strange things people will whisper to each other. My biggest fear, that I would overhear people saying cruel things about me, has not materialized. It’s been so exciting to live in Noisy Town that I want to crank the volume higher and higher, to see what more there is out there to hear. Sadly my audiologist didn’t put the controls in my hands. Perhaps wisely, she left the volume to the chips to manage.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dither, dither

For several years now I’ve been dithering about whether to get hearing aids. Pros: They might enable me to hear. Cons: They’re expensive. Not everyone can bear to wear them. And it makes my daughter cry when I mention the possibility (“You’ll look so old!” she wails). 

But now that I’m spending more time at home and conversing more with Other, who is also hard of hearing, I’m edging closer to making the big decision to spend the damn money. 

Though having to repeat everything I say to Other, and asking him to repeat everything he says to me, is a factor, it’s the little things that are firming my resolve. Someone who recently bought hearing aids told me she was startled the other day to hear the sound of her own pee tinkling into the toilet. It had been years since she’d heard it. Funny thing, I often can’t tell if I’ve finished peeing unless I look.

Then there’s the eavesdropping issue. A friend once told me that everything she knew about her daughter came from listening to her daughter and her friends talking in the back seat of her SUV. I was clueless as a mother. First of all, I don’t have an SUV. Second, I can’t hear anything with the back of my head. I need my eyes to hear. Like most hard-of-hearing people, I rely on lip reading, something that’s not always possible to do discreetly.

It’s not just critical information about my children’s lives I’ve missed. I’ve also missed learning about the lives of strangers. These days, people tell their most intimate secrets into their cell phones on the street. Every once in a while, I catch a fascinating glimpse of what I’m missing. I know everyone else wants people to stop talking on their cell phones. I want them to keep talking—but a bit louder, please.

As someone who feels on fire in a wool sweater, whose eyes run if someone within 50 yards is wearing perfume, who can’t bear the feeling of a hat pressing on my forehead, what are the chances I’ll be able to tolerate something stuck in my ear 12 hours a day? It’s a $5,000 crapshoot. But I think I'm ready to take a shot.