Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Ask Wednesday: How was your first day with hearing aids?

By Morris Dean

Yes, this week I started wearing "hearing instruments," as the manufacturer's user's guide calls hearing aids. An audiologist at the UNC Hearing and Communication Center fitted me with them on Monday afternoon, and I wore them continuously for about six hours, until I removed them, carefully wiped off any earwax from the receivers (I didn't see any), and parked them for the night to recharge their batteries and dry them out.
    I say! I liked them immediately. They weren't uncomfortable, and I reveled in the high sounds I had been missing much of – papers being shuffled, the rubbing of fingers, brushing against a sleeve or a pantleg– all of which had been essentially silent to me for...who knows how long?
    Monday evening I eagerly emailed a few expectant people about my new hearing aids to tell them that I enjoyed the better hearing of things like rustling leaves, birdsong, rubbing hand cream onto my hands and nails, Siegfried's nails clicking on the floor as he walks, my own bare feet walking, a banana skin peeling off, the click of an ink pen, differences in page crackle between thicker and thinner sheets of paper, the swishy sibilants of the stove's electronic ignitions, rubbing a dish towel over plastic bowl covers and stainless steel utensils – knives and forks and spoons squeak like birds chirping!

The crazy test. I told them that as soon as I got home my wife tested me on "Tracy and Mike," which I had recently heard as "crazy Mike," after I had been introduced to a man named Mike and told that his wife was away (her name was Tracy, but the name hadn't registered). When I was told something about "Tracy and Mike" a few minutes later, I asked why Mike was being described as "crazy"; I said he had seemed fine to me.
    I'm pretty sure that if I'd had my new aids for that conversation, there'd have been no question about Mike's sanity. At any rate, with the new aids, I passed my wife's crazy test on Monday.

And I don't just hear better. I think I see better too – better hearing seems to be making me attend to things more closely.
    Even my dinner tasted better Monday night.
    I can't believe my new "deaf aids" (as the Beatles called them, either in a song or in banter between songs in a recording session – I think it was the latter). Hip-hip-hooray for deaf aids!
    I am still delighting in all the new rustles, clicks, clacks, snaps, crackles, pops, krinkles,  krackles, swishes, and swooshes. The audiologist said that it would take a few days or a week or two to adjust fully, as my brain figures out what to do with all of the new sounds it's being sent. Probably my delight will wane as their novelty wears off, and my brain might decide to start ignoring some of them. But it's fun to notice these sounds when they're fresh and ear-opening (and note them in the "hearing aid journal" I'm keeping).

The whisper I used to hear, "What bold art,"
clarified following my late cold start
    with digital hearing aids;
    with them on my ears like braids,
the whisper says clearly now, "That old fart."
Copyright © 2015 by Morris Dean


  1. Good on you Morris. I haven't told Janie about your new aids. She has been after me for awhile to get tested---it would only be adding fuel to that fire---but the day and not to far off, I'll be joining you.

  2. As my "Hearing Journal" notes, today is Day 10 of my wearing hearing aids. Last evening I had the very unpleasant experience of trying to have a conversation in a busy restaurant with our friend who had taken us there for dinner. I of course don't know whether I was hearing better with the hearing aids than I would have been hearing without them, but I was hearing very much less well than I had come to expect I would. A real bummer.
        So...let's return to my journal entry for Day 3, when the delight of hearing high sounds was fresh and inspiring. That was the day I published this column (which had reported on Day 1):

    [Day 3] Missing nouns from list on blog today: hiss, fizz – the nice sound of water first hitting the bottom of the kettle – the starting zing of the stove ignition, the sizzle of water into a cup to measure for oat meal, the jingle of spoons when I extracted one, the light tinkle of oats falling into my cereal bowl, the slightly different tinkle of pouring them back into the container to make sure I hadn't measured too much – being distracted by thinking about the sound – the scratch of drawer opening, the high staccato of humming insects when I went out for the newspaper, the fat-frying frizzle of faucet water spreading out across the broad sink bottom, the special krinkle of the stiff plastic bag the grapes came in, the high rattling echo of the knife blade on the cutting board as I sliced a banana for my oatmeal, the imaginary whang of disappointment at having forgotten a sound description before I wrote it down, the chirtle (there should be a word) of water chirtling into the toilet after a flush, the hiss of something in removing coffee grounds from the French press (grounds along the thin glass wall?), the muffled scratch of the thick dish towel, the fizzy swoosh of suspiration while brushing my teeth with the battery-powered toothbrush, the muffled tinkle of fondled camera bag [I had been taking photos of woolly Siegfried before his haircut later that day], the coarse, gauzy scratch of the rough side of the dish sponge on linoleum counter top and backsplash border. Removed hearing aids at about 8:45 p.m. Thirteen hours of wearing on Day 3.

    1. My wife consoled me by pointing out that our friend has an accent and a lisp, and speaks pretty fast. And since we were sitting on either side of her, she had to divide her speech projection between us, sometimes speaking at a spot between us. Also, my wife pointed out, I didn't lean in towards our friend the way she [my wife] did, and, my wife said, she couldn't catch everything either. In other words, there's no way that any hearing aids are going to enable a person to catch every word in a situation like this.
          I think, bottom line, a busy restaurant is not a good place to have a conversation! I should either avoid crowded restaurants, or go there just to eat. In fact, I rarely dine in restaurants, and much more rarely still dine in a group of two or more other people.