Last Tuesday I got fitted for two hearing aids.  I’m not deaf as a stump or anything like that but I do have a mild to moderate hearing loss in the upper pitch ranges.

Forty years ago (Oh.My.GOD!) I joined the Army and became a Morse Code Radio Intercept Operator.  What that means is that I sat for 8 hours each day with headphones on, listening to Morse Code.  In the first place, a person would need a brain made out of oatmeal to be able to do that job and do it well — I fit that bill quite nicely back then (and probably still do).  The job involved tuning a radio receiver, not unlike those used by ham radio enthusiasts, to find the Morse code signal, fine tuning it, and then copying what was being sent onto a teletypewriter.  Often the signals were surrounded by natural or man-made interference and, if it couldn’t be “dug” out of that mess, the operator just had to sit and listen to the signal amid all the extraneous noise.  It really was an interesting job and I enjoyed doing it — I was good at it, and I knew it.  I saw others around me fall victim to the hearing loss monster, and was keenly aware that my time would come if I stayed in the field for too long, but it was an interesting job that offered pretty decent overseas assignments so I stuck with it.

I don’t remember when I noticed the ringing in my ears.  It might have been 10 years ago.  It could have been 20.  It’s just been with me for so long that my brain has likely accepted it as normal.  This incessant ringing (known as tinnitus) is a major part of my hearing deficit.  While undergoing a hearing evaluation in a soundproof booth with tones being transmitted into my ears, I’m very aware of the ringing and find that it blocks out those tones that match the same pitch as the ringing sound.  Add to that the fact that, with the natural aging process, I have a slight hearing loss without the ringing and that pretty much describes my hearing issues.

We have had the closed captions activated on the television for a number of years now.  The family got tired of me asking “What did he say?” during a movie or one of our favorite programs.  We found that, by the time they were through telling me what was said, they had missed other things.  Lose-lose all around.  Another disadvantage of the closed captions is the placement of the captions on the screen.  Why they aren’t “coded” to just display at the bottom of the screen is beyond any logical explanation.  They “float” around on the screen, sometimes taking residence right in the middle of the screen forcing the viewer to choose between understanding the dialogue, or seeing the picture.  This is especially true of sporting events.  Embedded captions all stay at the bottom of the screen (embedded captions are usually found on DVDs or BluRay disks) so why can’t over-the-air closed captioning?

Over the course of the past few years, I found myself asking people to repeat themselves, sometimes more than once.  I stopped saying “Huh?” and started saying “Say that again?”  I think that, in addition to the mild hearing loss, I may actually have some sort of deficit that causes me to process the spoken word a bit slower.  Sometimes I will say “Say that again?” and, by the time I get that out, I realize what has been said.  I think I also have tremendous difficulty filtering out “background noise.”  In a crowded restaurant, I am unable, for the most part, to carry on conversation with anyone at my table, if the conversation level in the room is loud enough.  It doesn’t have to be a roaring crowd, just a crowded room with normal conversation emanating from all around.  In one-on-one conversation with others, I find that if they speak to me while facing away from me, I can hear their voice but am unable to understand what has been said.

I took yet another hearing test last year in April. Up until that point I had been told that, while I did have a mild to moderate hearing loss, I was “…not a candidate for amplification.”  Last April I was written a prescription to go out into the world and find hearing aids.  I have listened to my Aunt Wanda complain that her husband’s hearing aids cost $2,000 per ear.  We don’t have that kind of cash just lying around so Lisa and I decided to increase the withholding of flexible spending money out of her paycheck, and we set our sights on getting one ear done this year, and the other next year.

As it turns out, it’s really not a good idea to do one ear at a time because that marvelous computer inside our heads makes rapid adjustments to almost everything life throws at it.  If I had bad hearing in just one ear, getting just one hearing aid wouldn’t be a problem but, as I have bad hearing in both ears, had I done just one ear the brain would have compensated for that and put more energy into that hearing ear and could stop sending signals to the bad one.  It’s just not recommended to do it the way we had originally planned.

hearing aid

I now have two hearing aids – at a cost of $2,700 per ear.  You would think that, for almost $6,000 the stupid things would sing and dance and tell jokes.  For that kind of money, they should have an act.  But, I suppose the “miracle” of hearing is enough for now.

I have an Over the Ear device, with the receiver in the canal.  As you can see by the picture, they’re not noticeable at all.  They also come in a variety of bright and subdued colors.  On Lisa’s suggestion, I took brown because she felt it better to try to match my hair rather than try to match my skin, which would likely be impossible and would make the hearing aid stand out that much more.

The problem now is that I hear E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

  • I can hear my pantlegs “swooshing” together when I walk.
  • I can hear my keyboard when I type (and it’s a “silent key” keyboard).
  • A co-worker wadded up a piece of paper and I jumped about 3 feet out of my chair because it startled me so badly.
  • I can hear the tick-tick-tick of the cats’ claws on the laminate floor when they walk around.
  • I can hear the fan in the air conditioning duct inside the ceiling over my head.
  • I can hear the buttons on the phone being pressed when I dial another extension.
  • I can hear the whine of the tires on my vehicle as they turn furiously on the highway.
  • I can actually hear the “whoosh” of air when someone walks by me quickly.
  • I can hear the echos of sounds in the hallways at work.
  • I can hear the noise of toilet paper as I wad it up in the toilet (I know, TMI).
  • The volume on the TV has gone from an average level of 35+ to about 12.

My hearing aids are not yet programmed to allow me to adjust the volume.  I’m supposed to get used to hearing what I’m hearing and not making my ears and/or brain lazy by turning them down if life seems a bit too loud for me at the moment.  I may get that ability today, although I’m doubtful  I’m only at 85% of my prescription and, if this is only 85%, it terrifies me to hear what 100% is!

I find that my ears itch a lot now but there isn’t any good way to scratch that itch with the hearing aids inhabiting the ear.  Also, the little “dome” at the end of the tube eventually causes discomfort after having had them in my ears for a lengthy amount of time.  By around 2:00 in the afternoon I end up taking them out while I go for my 15 minute walk, just to give everything a break.  They go back in and I wear them home but then, again, by around 6:00 I find I’m taking them out for the night because the inside of my ear feels bruised from having those little domes inside of them all day.

It’s an adjustment, but I’m hoping that this $5,700 investment was an investment in improved quality of life, not just for myself, but for my family and those I encounter on a day-to-day basis.

And now, for your viewing, I’m going to bring back some blog posts from the past.  This first one relates to the new diet plan we’re on right now.

In my younger years, I was an athlete.  I played every intramural sport there was for girls at our high school – field hockey, soccer, basketball, softball, tennis, track and field.  There was nothing I wouldn’t try and it seemed as if I could just never sit still.

At the completion of my senior year in high school, I was 5’3” and weighed a whopping 88 lbs. (with clothes on).  If I stood sideways and stuck out my tongue, people mistook me for a zipper.  Breasts? Is that what those little pimply-looking things on my chest were supposed to be called?   Honestly, I longed for the day that I could grow enough boob to fit into a 32A bra.

I joined the Army right out of high school.  The least I could weigh on enlistment was 103 lbs., waiverable down to 97 lbs.  The doctor that performed my physical said “You’re in excellent physical condition and will do fine in basic training” when he read those pitifully small numbers on the scale, so he entered those two digits I needed on the physical form. 97.  What he didn’t know what that I’d had 4 bananas for breakfast and had ten rolls of quarters in my pockets.

In basic training, we were weighed weekly.  My drill sergeant, a very butch woman with a considerable caboose was horrified the first time I stepped on the scales in front of her.  She took to accompanying me through the chow line, heaping my tray with every high calorie food she could reach, and then some.  I ate it all, and didn’t gain an ounce. I saw the seething hatred boiling just below her eyelids every time she saw me.

Fast forward ten years and three kids later, I was up to 130 lbs.  I had gained 67 lbs. with my third pregnancy and had managed to lose close to 40 of those pounds.  I wasn’t terribly upset at weighing 130 lbs. as I thought I looked pretty good and, as an added bonus, I had real, honest-to-God boobs – the kind that move and jiggle when you jump up and down.  Compared to my younger years, I woke up mornings feeling as though I was in the Pyrenees Mountains.

Fast forward again to September of 1998 when I quit smoking.  I weighed 137 lbs. and, afraid I’d gain a lot of weight following my smoking cessation program, I began working out compulsively.  I lost about 8 pounds in three months but, once the holidays set in, so did those lost 8 pounds.  I became lethargic.  My idea of working out was clearing the snow off my vehicle in the morning.  Aerobics? That was walking in and out of work.  I worked up a sweat pulling the lever on the recliner to lean back.  Two years later, Lisa moved in and, somewhere in that U-Haul was another forty pounds that I ended up carrying.  Thirty five years after high school, I have gained the equivalent of another whole me.

This extra “me” doesn’t have a job, doesn’t help pay bills, and doesn’t help out around the house.  She drags me down when I try to climb stairs, sits in my lap, wears my jeans (with me already in them) and peers out from under most shirts that I wear.  When I walk, the view from behind reminds a person of two little kids playing under a blanket.  I’m nearing a time when I have to begin shopping for clothing from Omar the Tentmaker rather than JC Penney.  I have to keep my inner thighs shaved so that the hair doesn’t ignite from the friction of the two thighs rubbing together.  I am, in two words, physically PFFFFFFFFFFT.

And, just when I thought I couldn’t feel any worse about myself, we bought a Wii.

Not just a Wii, Wii Active, complete with 30 day challenge and a “trainer” to motivate me.

I started right in with the 30 day challenge.  Being the arrogant ass that I am, I selected “medium” intensity, thinking that “light” intensity wouldn’t give me as much of a challenge as I needed.  The next day my legs felt shakier than Larry Craig’s “wide stance” explanation.  I find myself cursing regularly at the “trainer,” dropping the “eff bomb” whenever she tells me how good I’m looking and what a great job I’m doing.  But if I went too slowly and she’d tell me “You can do better than that,” the expletives exploded from my mouth, causing all four cats to scatter and, in the distant upstairs, I heard laughter.

I clicked on “start over” and opted for the “light workout” to begin a new 30 day challenge.  The cursing hasn’t stopped yet, and I’m already into my second week of “light” workouts.

Did I mention the leg strap that is supposed to go around the upper thigh, so that the system knows you are moving?  Did I mention that the strap barely goes around my enormous thigh and, because it seemed to want to slip down my thigh at the slightest movement, I had to keep cinching the Velcro closure tighter and tighter until it was no longer an exercise strap, but a tourniquet?  Every flex of my right thigh muscle caused a deep throb from within, and I found that I had no blood flow to my leg and my right foot would no longer cooperate with the messages sent from the brain.  I exercised as I imagined Igor must have looked in Count Dracula’s castle, with one leg trailing uselessly behind.  It took a few days but I finally found a happy ground for that darned leg tourniquet – one where my foot stayed pink instead of turning bright purple.

Now, let’s talk about fat for just a minute.  Fat jiggles.  There’s a reason why “The Night Before Christmas” describes Santa’s belly as a “bowl full of jelly.”  When fat people jump, run or otherwise move quickly, the fat moves against them.  As I jogged in place (on the jogging trampoline so my knees and ankles didn’t snap off on that hard floor), I felt the cheeks of my butt jumping up and down and, on the down, I felt pain.  To add to the humiliation, my boobs were doing the same thing and, at one point, I feared I’d black my eyes.  I now wear underwear that is three sizes too small and run with my arms over my boobs, for safety.  How on earth am I supposed to feel good about myself by working out when I have to suffer this type of humiliation?

I decided that every exercise I have to do needs to benefit me some way to enhance my relationship with Lisa, or to better my life in some way other than making me hurt– it’s the only way I can motivate myself to continue this insanity.

Side Lunges: One foot stationary, the other stretched halfway across the room.  OK, there’s a sexual visual there that I probably shouldn’t mention, so we’ll move on.

Running:  Okay, stamina and endurance.  This is good. I can do this.  This should give me the performance in bed that I want, and will allow me to walk up those six stairs without feeling like I ran a marathon, making me too tired for lovemaking.

High Kicks: While walking or running, you kick back high enough to look like you’re kicking yourself in the behind.  Well, I did a lot of that after that last relationship I had, so I don’t feel I need any practice doing this, nor do I see any benefit to this in the current relationship.  Lisa, on the other hand, probably wonders why she doesn’t get to do forward kicks of my behind, as that seems necessary from time to time.

Then there are all those resistance band exercises.  Looking like a large orange rubber band with handles, you stand on the band and do bicep curls or shoulder lifts or other such nonsense.  The secret here is to stand firmly on the band, lest it break free with a loud SNNN-AAAAP and whack your seriously over-padded behind stuffed inside that too-small underwear that keeps it from jiggling.

Finally, the workout ends.

I’m now free to go back upstairs, pour a large glass of wine, and eat a large plate of pasta, half a cake for dessert, and a sleeve of Ritz crackers for a snack an hour later.

I don’t think this Wii Active is doing me much good.