Not too long ago I was sitting at an outdoor table having tea with a friend when I mentioned that I was getting hearing aids. Traffic roared fifty feet from us and an ambulance’s siren added to the din.
My friend smiled and nodded. “That’s great. I won’t have to shout anymore!”
“You’re not shouting,” I said.
She smiled again. “I’m shouting right now.”
I’ve been losing my hearing for more than a decade. It’s been incremental but obvious to almost everyone who knows me. I ask people to repeat themselves. I read their lips. I pretend to hear, smile and nod in deaf understanding. My hearing loss has led to some classic misunderstanding (“I said art, not fart!) and I have learned to look interested during group discussions when all I could make out was an occasional word.
So after wasting money on Facebook-advertised cheap hearing aids that cost less than a hundred and mostly whistled and whined in my ears, I was told that Medicare would spring $2000 towards a pair of $4300 Phonak aids. It was a tough bullet to bite. I can’t remember the last time I spent more than two grand on myself and the truth is, with Covid-19 raging, I see fewer and fewer people. Listening is not a must. I’d also heard of people who’d spent small fortunes on hearing aids and, in the end, found them impossible to tolerate. The 45-day try-out period, and the guarantee of a full refund if I didn’t like the Phonaks, sold me.
I was fitted with them this morning, instructed on recharging procedures, and downloaded the app that would allow ne to use them with Blue Tooth. The Phonaks come with a bunch of bells and whistles, even though their price is considered mid-level—above a Hyundai but far below a Caddy.
I was amazed from the git-go. Not only could I clearly hear the audio technician who explained the finer points of the devices, when I left, I could hear my footsteps!!! Also the wooshing sound made by an elevator, and a car starting 200 feet away.
I stopped at a coffee shop on the way home. Four teen-age girls were at an adjoining table. One brayed; another had a voice reminiscent of the squeal of a puppy whose tail is stepped on. I used the Phonac app to change the hearing aids’ settings.
The Phonacs are paired to my phone, so when I got a call, it rang directly inside my head and I jumped out of my skin. I have to work out some of the finer points. Right now, the clattering of my keyboard, the sighing of the heat coming through the vents, and the stereo voices of the dishwasher and clothe dryer are providing a not unpleasant cacophony but add to this the sound of a vacuum cleaner in the hallway, and it’s a little too much.
Still, this is nothing short of miraculous. Another plus: By pressing a small button on the side of the right hearing aid, I can mute them both and be deaf again, because you never know. Sometimes silence is golden.