Say What?

Hearing impairment is going to be a huge problem/opportunity, depending on who you talk to. We shouldn’t be so surprised if we’ve been blasting our ear drums with loud music for a few decades. The good news is, these days you can get yourself fitted out with some really cool hearing aids that are programmed for your particular range of impairment. And then, get this, reprogrammed when you need it.

This doesn’t come cheap — starting at about $1500 each for CIC (completely in the canal) aids that are molded to the contours of your ear and nearly invisible when inserted — and to date, insurance doesn’t cover the cost. But they are well worth it. I speak from experience.

Here are a few things I noticed that alerted me to the problem, and might help you decide to get your hearing tested:

1. I was having difficulty discriminating between certain sounds in a crowd, e.g. at a party, restaurant, or large meeting. I heard ambient sounds — music, traffic and so on — but would confuse words and be struggling to get the sense of what was being communicated from the context.

2. People would have to repeat things.

3. I “heard” better when people were facing me, so unconsciously I’d already begun to read lips. Isn’t the human body/mind amazing?

4. Noise started to bother me less — a good thing!

5. But I had the most difficulty discriminating the higher frequency sounds, like the speech of women and my grandchildren. In fact, I noticed that my grandchildren would stand right in front of me, picking up on my disability long before adults did (those smart kids!)

If any of these symptoms seem familiar, make an appointment with an ENT specialist and audiologist, pronto. Don’t let embarrassment over a hearing impairment lead to social isolation. These days, we’re all walking around wired in some fashion — IPods, headphones, cell phones, etc. — so what’s the big deal?

And don’t make the mistake I did, purchasing one aid on a wait-and-see basis. At my last check up, the loss in my ear that is fitted with a CIC was minimal. The other, uncorrected ear, was significantly higher. Now I wear one in each ear, and I’m getting much more than I’m missing. As all the experts tell you, no instrument will restore your normal hearing. Who knows what the future will bring in new medical technology? But in the meantime, don’t accept hearing impairment as something you just have to live with. You don’t.

Hearing better might make you feisty enough to start lobbying for getting hearing aids covered (along with dental and optical treatments) by insurance. Say what!

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