I’ve been spoiled. For most of my life I’ve been able to hear equally well with two ears. My hearing loss is about the same in both ears, and I usually wear two hearing aids. That’s why it came as a shock this week when one of my aids died and I had to function with just my left ear. I know many people have only one ear that can be aided, or have an implant in one ear, and that’s a lot better than nothing. But it’s a lot worse than having bilateral hearing.
People at work with whom I could normally converse suddenly lost their voices. One young, soft-spoken reporter talked to me for about 15 minutes. I didn’t even know she was talking to me for the longest time until I glanced up and she waved her hand back and forth to get my attention. I finally realized she was asking a question about writing style, but I couldn’t figure out what the question was. I understood her ask for a style book, so I hunted down the right book and gave it to her so she could look up the answer. I probably could have told her the answer if I had just heard the question. For the past few days, people who approached me from the right suddenly got no response and had to repeat themselves when and if I turned around and acknowledged them. A colleague who carpools with me and talks nonstop with a British accent sat on my deaf side last night, forcing me to lipread in the dark while driving. At news meetings, another colleague beat me to my preferred seat at the head of the table, forcing me to sit on the corner, with my deaf ear to most of the room.
Don’t get me wrong. I love silence, and would be happy to live in silence if people would just stop talking to me. Since that’s not going to happen, I have a choice to make. I found out this morning that the broken hearing aid would cost $450 to repair and would only be under warranty for 6 months. It’s going on 7 years old and has already been rebuilt once. I said no to the repair and instead made an appointment for next Wednesday to see about getting a new aid to replace the broken one, maybe two. I really don’t want to spend money. My last two sets of hearing aids have each cost $5,000 a pair. I don’t think they were worth that much money. My most recent pair were top-of-the-line digital aids with multiple noise-reduction options that I rarely used. My extended health insurance will pay for $1,000 per aid ($2,000 a pair). I’m hoping to get something simple and cheap. My hearing loss is really simple. All I want is to hear a sound when people’s lips move. That shouldn’t be expensive, should it?