My father-in-law is fond of the phrase “growing old isn’t for sissies” or variations of it. He used it on me recently when I got a new medical device. I really hadn’t planned to tell this story, but judging from the reactions several friends have given me when I told them, I think I have to.
I have a hearing aid.
For most of the last year, I’ve been getting headaches and have been a bit more tired than normal. Sometimes my ear bothered me, but I thought it was just waxy buildup. Or an ear infection. Or one of several other self-diagnoses. I thought the headaches were caused by eye strain and got stronger reading glasses. That didn’t help.
Finally, it got bad enough that I really began paying attention to the problem and I realized I had tinnitus. The constant ringing and headaches were making it difficult to concentrate and my writing productivity dropped off considerably.
When I really thought about it, I realized the ringing noises were primarily in one ear. After some medical exams and false starts, we determined I have some degree of hearing loss in my left ear. Not sure why…other than possibly it is my “driving ear”. I’ve always loved to drive with the windows down (and no, I don’t hang my head out the window like a dog…at least not often).
So, now I have a hearing aid. It’s really helped considerably. I don’t say “huh?” nearly as much. And I can actually hear the television…most of the time. The headaches are almost entirely gone. Best of all, my focus has returned. My hearing aid even comes with a built-in background noise if I want to use it to distract me from the ringing when I’m reading or doing something quietly. I really haven’t needed it, but it’s like having my own muzak.
The most interesting part has been the reactions I’ve gotten from a number of my friends. Several friends have told me that they thought they were just going to have to struggle with hearing loss. That it was just part of getting older. I typically have to show them my hearing aid because they don’t see it normally. Hearing aids aren’t cheap, but my insurance paid for quite a bit of it.
I make a lot of jokes about my hearing aid, but in general I don’t think of it as being any different than wearing glasses. Instead of suffering from eye strain, I get headaches from ear strain. Simple as that.
If you’re struggling to hear, or with headaches or tinnitus and think it is just something you have to deal with, don’t. Talk to your doctor. Hearing aids are smaller, more effective and more affordable than ever.
Growing old may not be for sissies, but we don’t have to accept it gracefully either..