Written by: CHS Client, Ruth Miller
I Can Hear the Birds Singing for Me!
A few years ago, while having a conversation with my husband Eric, about a delicious meal I had at a restaurant, something became clear. He misunderstood most of what I had described. I realized that he had some form of hearing loss and it was time for hearing aids. After much procrastination, he finally got them, but he didn’t wear them much. I now understand how common that is.
At the same time, I also decided to get my hearing tested. The results revealed my hearing was not bad but also not great in the upper registers. The plan was to check again one year later and have another test, which I did not. Four years passed, and my hearing deteriorated. I found it difficult to understand movie dialogue and my teenage granddaughters, whom I accused of mumbling.
Then the pandemic hit. Suddenly everyone was wearing masks and I couldn’t read lips anymore. I found myself saying, “Pardon? Pardon? Pardon?”
Then, in the summer of 2020, came the final straw. I was at the cottage and my son Daniel was there. It was the day Joe Biden was to announce his running mate. Daniel came into the living room and I heard him say, “A couple of herons!”
That’s unusual, I thought. They are mostly solitary creatures.
“What, Daniel?” I said. “You saw two herons together?”
“Mom!” he replied in exasperation. “I said, ‘Kamala Harris!’”
We had a good laugh, but I knew it was a sign. My three sons had been suggesting I look into hearing aids for months. Finally, I capitulated.
I headed to Canadian Hearing Services in Toronto, where a friendly young audiologist in did tests, including understanding my range of hearing loss, my ability to hear certain consonants and hearing a conversation with background noises.
When it was over, he assured me that my hearing loss was in the upper registers and that it was age-related. I could come back in a year if I wanted to wait. I hesitated.
I had thought I would escape the need for a hearing device. I wear glasses, but who doesn’t? Glasses are worn by people of all ages. But hearing aids represented an ominous sign that one is aging and that one’s faculties are diminishing. The notion that I might need them was an affront to my view of myself as a spry and still with it 81-year old. I thought I’d never cross the threshold of looking my age, let alone being my age.
But when the audiologist told me that hearing loss can affect the density of the brain, and when I read the poster on his wall linking hearing loss to dementia, I said: “Bring it on.” The clincher was the fact that I could get rechargeable hearing aids–no fiddly, teeny batteries to wrestle with.
Six weeks later, I returned to Canadian Hearing Services to pick up my new devices. The audiologist showed me how to wear them, how to clean them, and how to take care of them. He said I was a fast learner. The plan was to do a follow up one month later.
Much to my family’s relief, I became a proud, if somewhat apprehensive, owner of behind-the-ear hearing aids. I looked forward to a brighter auditory future.
My hands shook the first morning as I secured my new devices in place and went to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.
The water from the kitchen tap sounded like Niagara Falls. The morning paper rustled and crackled as I opened it. At the fridge door, I suddenly heard four loud beeps in my hearing aids. I panicked. Oh dear, I thought, it’s a warning about something, but what? Then I realized it was only my coffee maker telling me the coffee was ready.
Suddenly, there was so much to get used to! Everything rustled, clicked, beeped, whistled and creaked in ways I never thought possible. As I write this, the keys on my computer are clicking merrily.
It turns out that despite my view of myself as spry and with it, age is catching up to me. But I am grateful for the things that restore, repair, or replace my aging parts.
My hands don’t shake when I put in my hearing aids anymore. And the world becomes brighter the minute I do.
My husband Eric died two years ago. His hearing aids were rarely removed from the box they came in. I wish he were here to see me take so enthusiastically to these marvellous devices. I would tell him how important it is to wear them. I think he would be willing to try too.
I am going out for a walk now, with my hearing aids in place. The sun is shining, and the birds are in the trees. I will hear them sing. I know they are singing for me.