G:TBers are a hardy, robust lot, but they aren’t immune to the clock or calendar. Because I have several years on you cats, Rob, the site’s grand poobah (Ed: we prefer the use of the term Tiny Dictator), asked if I’d contribute a post on my aging experience – sort of a doddering canary into the geriatric coalmine.
|Fairbank got hearing aids, and a new wardrobe|
Personally, I think he wants an easy launch pad for old guy jokes. Fine motivation both.
I recently bought a pair of hearing aids. Can’t say that I’m happy about it, but they were necessary. I just turned 57, which boggles my mind for many reasons, and I’ve experienced gradual hearing loss for the past several years. Too much, “I’m sorry, say that again,” “Excuse me,” and snippets of conversations around me that evaporated. My wife almost reflexively tells me things twice. I’d like to tell you that the eight months after college I spent as a roadie for Black Flag finally caught up to me, but that would be a fib on multiple levels. Certainly, loud music and club dates contributed, but it’s age, with a dose of genetics.
An audiologist tested me – soundproof booth, headphones, tones of various frequencies piped into each ear – and said I had asymmetric hearing loss, meaning one ear was significantly worse than the other. Which I knew. Just as I knew I needed hearing aids. I resisted, due more to laziness than vanity. If you saw my wardrobe and workspace, I think you’d agree.
I went with a pair of what are called Behind The Ear (BTE) aids. Very small. Almost unnoticeable. Small microphone fits behind the ear, with a tiny plastic tube that runs over the ear and hugs the temple, connected to a domed transmitter inserted into the ear canal. Feels a little peculiar at first, but you get used to it. Tip: Make sure your ear canals are clean; otherwise, it feels like you stuffed a cotton ball into your ear, high-end electronics or not.
I walked outside and HOLY SHIT, THE WORLD IS A NOISY PLACE. The four-lane highway in front of the office sounded like Talladega. Flushing the toilet sounded like Niagara Falls. When I went to lunch and a barback dumped ice into a big, plastic bucket, I thought my head was spot-welded to a front-end loader at a quarry. By the end of the day, I had a borderline headache from volume – not just the decibel level, but the amount of suddenly audible stuff that my brain attempted to process.
You can argue that decreased hearing capacity might actually be a benefit amid the present societal din. The problem, however, is that you cannot tailor the input. You miss your kids’ conversations, as well as the beanbag yammering in the grocery checkout line. Studies suggest that hearing loss could cause shrinking or diminished brain capacity as you age. I need all the gray matter I can get.
|Here's a picture of a dollar bill. And Dave's hearing aid.|
Anyway, hearing aids are a revelation. For the price, they should be. Digital hearing aids typically run from $1,500 to $3,500 apiece. Though apparently, Costco has recently gotten into the hearing aid biz, with in-store audiologists and discounted pricing. Because, of course you think auditory quality while you’re shopping for 10-pound blocks of cheddar and 64-packs of toilet paper. More like, they know a potential market when they see it. A 2014 Census Bureau report projected that more than 20 percent of the population will be age 65 or older by 2030, comprising more than 70 million people. They’ll need hearing aids and motorized wheelchairs and delivery services and metric shit-tons of Depends.
I sprang for a pair of medium-high quality aids. Don’t know if I should have gone higher or lower, but I don’t have the patience to test-drive hearing aids (again, selective laziness), so I picked a model in the audiologist’s recommended range.
Not only do they amplify, but the increased sharpness is a little jarring at first. Ice cubes tumbling into a glass. The dog’s nails on a hardwood floor. A seat belt click. They also drink batteries, which typically last 7-10 days. When the batteries are going dead, my particular models emit the tonal opening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which I’d like to think is a playfully wiseass touch by the engineers, given the composer’s deafness late in his life.
|We'll always have this|
A friend’s dad recently bought hearing aids at Costco. We had a chance meeting shortly after he learned that I had bought hearing aids, as well. Let me tell you, nothing livens up a conversation like comparing hearing aids with an 80-year-old.
This is something that you Gheorghies are beginning to experience. As you age, there’s a conversational shift from music and sports and culture and ideas, to ailments and conditions and meds and doctor’s visits. The percentage of conversations devoted to bowel movements remains roughly the same.
Diminished capacity – vision, hearing, chewing, whatever – is more often gradual than sudden. Take stock periodically. Pay attention. See the doc. Talk to your family and friends. Try not to let vanity get in the way. We all eventually end up on adjacent commodes with our pants around our ankles.
That’s it for now. Next on the calendar: a colonoscopy. Good times.