How I’m Adjusting to Hearing Aids
Health and Wellness

How I’m Adjusting to Hearing Aids

Arlene Applerouth shares her thoughts on the benefits and setbacks of wearing hearing aids.

When I was watching a video on my laptop, my son-in-law, Yosefi, asked me to turn down the volume. It didn’t sound loud to me.

The next day, during our Shabbat lunch, I was sitting on the opposite end of the table from Yosefi. I noticed he was moving his mouth, talking about something, but no sound was coming out.

I didn’t hear him. It was like watching a silent movie without titles.

I knew it was time to have my hearing tested.

It turned out that I’m one in six baby boomers suffering from loss of hearing who would benefit from hearing aids. The Better Hearing Institute estimates there are more than 35 million Americans who are hearing-impaired.

Rather than remain among the 26 million who don’t get help and are always saying, “What did you say? I didn’t hear you,” I made the decision to get fitted for hearing aids.

The audiologist assured me there was no financial risk. I could try them for six months, and if I didn’t like them, my money would be refunded, no questions asked.

The devices were so small, I knew immediately that wearing them would be less noticeable than my loss of hearing. When I looked at myself in the mirror, the hearing aids were hardly visible.

So far, it has been an interesting period of adjustment.

The first time I walked around a store with the hearing aids in, I felt as if I was eavesdropping on everyone’s conversations. I heard the hum of motors and the dinging of cash registers from hundreds of yards away.

Had I been missing these sounds? I wondered what else I had missed.

When I went into a bathroom, I found out.

The sound of a flushing toilet was like being near the Iguazu waterfalls in Argentina. I ran out of the bathroom with my hands over my ears. Surely, this couldn’t be the way other people heard a toilet flushing.

Remembering I could reduce the amplification with my iPhone, I tapped the hearing aid app and slid the volume control to the left. To make sure the new setting was acceptable, I went back into the bathroom, flushed again and was relieved I didn’t have to run out.

It astonished me how talking on the phone changed.

When my phone rings, or if I make a call, the sound travels down the tube in my hearing aids.

It’s kind of cool.

I was with my mother, talking on the phone to my son in Toronto. He wanted to talk to his bubbe, so I passed her the phone and put it on speaker.

David talked, but my mother heard nothing. His voice was coming into my ears.

I had no idea what to do to change what was happening. I fiddled with the settings on the hearing aid app, but nothing worked.

Did that mean no one else could borrow my phone?

A bit embarrassed, I said goodbye to my son, called the audiologist and asked what to do.

“Just turn off the Bluetooth setting on your phone,” she said.

Why hadn’t I thought of that?

Although today’s technology is amazing, I admit it sometimes confuses me.

After I turned off the Bluetooth setting so my mother could use my phone, I went into my car, where talking hands-free is a pleasure. I’m proud to know how to pair my iPhone with the cars I rent when I travel.

I tried making a call using voice commands, but nothing happened. By disconnecting the Bluetooth so my mother could use my phone, I disconnected the phone from the sound system in my rental car. I pulled over to readjust the settings.

Bluetooth settings have lots of value.

For instance, ordinarily I don’t like eating alone, especially in a restaurant. It’s one of the realities of adjusting to widowhood.

One evening, around 5, I knew “All Things Considered” was on NPR. I parked at one of my favorite restaurants, tapped the WABE app on my iPhone and enjoyed a delicious meal while listening to the newscast.

It didn’t disturb any of the other diners because Bluetooth brought the sounds only into my ears.

Taking care of hearing aids also requires some adjusting.

To preserve the tiny zinc batteries, you have to remember to open the plastic part of the hearing aid every night. I had to have my nails trimmed to be able to do that.

I also carry extra batteries wherever I go. It’s one more thing to remember.

Overall, getting hearing aids has been a positive experience. The audiologist who sold them to me predicted it would take as much as six months for my brain to fully adapt.

I’m willing to give it whatever time it takes.

Next time I am with my son-in-law, I bet I won’t have to turn down the volume on my laptop.

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