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A New Way to Be Present

Late last week, while Jodi and I were running some errands, I had to ask her to repeat what she had just said—an extremely common occurrence over the course of the last few years. Within seconds, though, it occurred to me that I had simply forgotten to put in my new hearing aids after I took a shower. Since I got them a week ago, I haven’t said, “Huh?” nearly as often, and I’ve noticed sounds I probably haven’t heard in years, or ever. And yet, despite this huge boost to one of my senses, and therefore my life, I have not taken to the idea of hearing aids very easily.

The best part of these new hearing aids is that I can hear—everything.

I first went to an audiologist last spring. I’d taken an annual hearing test and the results showed a “moderate” to “moderately severe” loss in both ears. I hadn’t really thought much about what was going to happen at this appointment, beyond wanting to “do the right thing.” I always want to “get an A” when I am out in the world, so I hardly even stopped to think about how I felt about getting hearing aids. As it turns out—much to my good fortune—we had to make a second appointment, where we would settle on which devices I would use. This gave me time to think more fully about this change in my body. And, it gave me time to chicken out. I emailed the audiologist and told her I’d come back later in the summer. I never did.

This summer, when we were staying in a big, stone house with poor acoustics, I had trouble hearing anyone with a soft voice. Then and there, I promised Jodi I’d do something when we got back. Two friends recommended The Hearing Solution and I got myself there shortly after we returned to Sacramento. As I sat in the office, I realized that I was scared—mostly of the fact that a part of my body had stopped working as it should, and as it had for many years. Other than a little arthritis in my right hand, it’s the first real sign of aging that I’ve experienced. Everything I read about maintaining health and mental wellness, though, reminds me that I need to be able to hear clearly. It can help stave off dementia, prevent accidents, and keep me connected to other people—all things I want.

The best part of these new hearing aids is that I can hear—everything. When I was running this week, I heard a bird call to another and then heard the second one respond. I seriously doubt that's the first time there have been birds singing on the greenbelt, but it was amazing to me to hear it. I’ve also realized how easy it has become to just check out when I can’t hear everything that’s being said—or even the basic sounds of life—footsteps on the path, the breeze in the trees, the laughter of people out walking.

This experience has actually been better than I could have hoped, and the audiologist and her staff have been helpful and encouraging. I remind myself that I started wearing glasses for driving years ago and it didn’t faze me. And, I don’t feel old when I wear hearing aids themselves; I feel old when I associate them with stereotypes about aging and bodies falling apart. In a way, though, I'm thinking of this as a proactive movement in a better direction—it’s a vote for myself to stay healthy and connected and part of the world in a fuller way than I probably have been for a long time.


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