I have had different injuries throughout my life. Knees, shoulders, arms, hands and my back have all had something or other happen to them. All of these injuries healed over time, with very little residual effects short of a couple of scars. I have been on crutches a couple of times but have never required a cast to help mend a broken bone. Overall, I believe that I have fared well throughout my life when it comes to debilitating injuries. Even dealing with depression has not stopped me from carrying on my daily life.
I think of my body like a car. Built in 1961, it was a highly advanced piece of machinery at the time. The body all smooth and shiny, and the inner workings hummed with energy. Almost 60 years later… not so much. The body is marred and the engine sputters and doesn’t have anywhere near the strength and energy it did in its hay-day. Even the live-in mechanic, the one that heals the wounds and wards off the infections, is moving much slower than he once did.
My body, unlike a car, can not be traded-in for the latest model. A new one, without the aches and wrinkles. All I can do is work with what I have, and add extra’s where possible. That right, extras! Doctors, scientists and chemists, have been developing extras for the body since the first peg-leg. We have even developed replacement parts for some of our internal mechanics! We now have special fuels that keep us upright just a little longer and apart from the occasional side-effect, like dizziness and death, they are helpful to many. All of these extras are out there and if you are enough of a hypochondriac, and have the money, you can get them all. Not a new body, but a body completely decked out with all the newest bling.
I don’t happen to be one of those people though and therefore, I have only added the extras that are needed to keep me functioning. It started with the teeth that I wrote extensively about in the past. That was followed the next year with my eyes. I sport glasses for reading and driving. I couldn’t bring myself to get bifocals, so I work with two pairs of specs. My diet has also changed over the years and I consume less artery clogging grease and generally eat less quantity. I basically subsist on coffee and cigarettes as my main life sustaining diet. I know!!! But my father lived into his 80’s with this diet, and he also ate steak three times a week!!!
I ignore the wrinkles and the grey hair. I only see them when I look in a mirror and the rest of the time, they are your problem not mine. It’s an ‘eye of the beholder’ thing and I figure if you don’t like what you see… don’t look! I lack the ego required for plastic surgery and hair colour is a hassle. Damn stuff just keeps growing out anyway!! At least I have hair, which saves me money not having to wear the official hat of Canada… the toque!!
My plan all along has been to deal with one anatomical malfunction per year until I retire. If it isn’t fixed by then, I will not be able to afford it and will have to live with the extras I have. This year, year 3 of 4, I dealt with my hearing.
I have dealt with Tinnitus for almost twenty years. A constant high-pitched sound that is in my right ear. Truthfully, it is quite loud, but I have grown accustomed to it and have used it as an excuse for the slowly diminishing capacity of my actual hearing. I would tell people they needed to speak up so their voices carried over the constant white-noise. It was the truth when it first appeared, but even I notice I can no longer hear the television the way I used to.
So, I went to see a hearing specialist that had been recommended by a friend. He sat me in a room, placed an ear-bud in each ear. He handed me a plastic handle with a button on the top attached to a chord. Then told me to wait for his instructions. He left the room, closing the door to the booth, and few moments later I heard his voice through the ear-buds. He instructed me to push the button on the top of plastic handle every time I heard a tone in either ear.
At first the tones were easy enough to hear but as soon as he went too quiet, the Tinnitus would drown out any tone. The higher the pitch became, the worse it was. It wasn’t long before my brain was arguing with itself over what I might or might not be hearing! Was that something or not?? Push the button! I’m not sure that it was a sound or just my wheezy breathing?? Push the button!! No, I think that was my stomach!! PUSH THE DAMN BUTTON!!! I was giving myself a headache! Finally, the tone test ended. It was replaced by the oral exam.
Okay, this phase of the exam was a disaster from the start. It used words that sound like other words. Did he say Bass or Brass? Coal or Cold? Word or Were? Time or Thyme? The whole thing is rigged for failure!!! I didn’t stand a chance!! Did he just say Puck?? It wasn’t until he stopped saying anything that I realized I was pounding on the plastic button with my thumb, as if that was going to save me!! The door opened and the hearing guy removed the buds from my ears and pried the switch from my hand. He instructed me to come into the office.
“Your hearing is really horrible,” he said to me from across the desk. Is that a medical term?? Isn’t that something the patient is supposed to say?? “I have a horrible pain in my back” or “I have a horrible headache”. I didn’t think the medical professionals used that particular terminology. “Sorry sir… you have horrible cancer”, is not something they say!! Even my grade school teachers didn’t use the word!! “Sorry Johnny, but you did horrible on the test.” Maybe hearing terminology is different. It starts with good, then moves to sort of bad, to bad, to really bad, to nasty, to really nasty, to horrible, to really horrible, to what? Sort of Deaf???
He shows me the graph he used to plot the results of the exam. At the top of the page is a thick area highlighted with a straight black line. He points to it and tells me that this area represents normal hearing range. In the middle of the sheet is a jagged line with circles and boxes at certain points that he has drawn. This he tells me is where my hearing level is. The line is 3 inches below the black line!! I didn’t even get remotely close to the normal area!! If I’d only been an inch higher on the page, my hearing would have been merely nasty!!!
I’m staring at the sheet when I hear the hearing specialist say, “You need hearing aids.” I look up and there before me is a black box and ‘hearing specialist’ is now ‘hearing-aid salesman’. “Let’s talk cost…” He opens the box and there are three different styles of hearing-aids. I’m not new to this, I’ve been selling all me life and I saw the same thing happen last year when ‘eye professional’ suddenly became ‘rim-style specialist’. At least the Denturist didn’t try to sell me different levels of teeth quality.
He quickly explains to me all the reasons I wouldn’t be happy with the cheaper models of hearing-aid. Then he closes out his spiel with, “You have a 30-day free trial, so you might as wear our best ones.” Guaranteed this guy was a car salesman in a previous life! “Here, let me show you how they work.” He proceeds to give me the quick-notes on basic hearing-aid operation. I try to pay attention but let’s be honest, he’s talking fast… and I have really horrible hearing!!! There’s a manual, so I figure I will be fine. I head for home with my aids planted in my ears.
Loud and obnoxious, those are the words I would choose to best describe what I am hearing. Not the people I am talking to, but the background noises that are attacking my sensory perception. The hearing-aids are picking up everything! The crunching of snow under the tires, sounds like I’m driving over glass. The fan keeping my toes warm, sounds like a jet engine. Paper crackles and so do plastic bags, who knew? Every sound is loud and interferes when I’m having a conversation. I hear the person fine, but I also hear the squeaking wheel of the shopping cart they’re pushing, and those annoying Christmas carols that started playing in November, are coming in loud and clear!! And let’s not forget my Tinnitus, it’s still there fighting to be recognized!!! The background noises all sound loud and obnoxious.
The hearing specialist warned me that this would happen. It had been a while since I’d been able to hear any of these sounds, and because of that my brain had atrophied. This guy has a way with words. Atrophy of course, is a proper medical term. In lay-mans terms it means ‘went stupid’. For lack of use, the sound part of my brain, had gone stupid! With the hearing-aids I’m hearing everything, and spending an incredible amount of time trying to identify the noise!! It’s a distraction!!! I assume my brain will eventually start to remember the ambient sounds, and will stop wasting my time trying to make me identify what it is. I will someday un-atrophy.
Honey came home from work that day. She told me about her day, we had dinner, and watched a little television. She knew about my appointment that day but she didn’t ask and I didn’t say anything about it. It was not until the next night that she asked how my appointment had gone. I had been wearing the hearing-aids for a full day and she had not noticed! She wasn’t the only one! Not a single person noticed!! I work all day, amongst familiar faces, and not one soul said a thing about me wearing hearing-aids! Even my assistant sales-monkey didn’t see them!! These things are nearly invisible! I’ve been wearing them a week and I have received not one comment from anyone. Now, maybe people are just being polite, but they weren’t that way with my glasses. “Hey, you’re wearing glasses,” came out of everyone’s mouth! I don’t work amongst the mentally elite, so stating the obvious makes most of them feel smart.
I see the hearing specialist/salesman next week. He won’t need to give me any more sales pitch. I’m driving away with the Mercedes-aids. There is some tweaking to be done, but I already know that the benefits and design, work for me. So, I will pay-up and get what I want. People will eventually notice but I really don’t care. I feel no stigmatism attached to the prosthetic and if they do, that’s their problem.
So, I have handled everything from the neck up. I am completely decked out with all the extras. I eat better, I see better and I hear better. I have spent more on my head, than I have on my last two vehicles. I will adjust to the hearing-aids, just as I have the teeth and the glasses. In just a week, I have already developed a morning ritual where I assemble my head before I leave the house and as I leave the house I do a quick double check… truck keys, house keys, work computer, laptop, reading glasses, driving glasses, teeth…