Maude McDaniel, Columnist
For 40 or 50 years I have worn hearing aids, and all I can say is, God bless whoever invented them! According to Google, it was in the 17th century, but you’d never know it to look at them. Ear trumpets are not what I’m talkin’ about!
I inherited my bad hearing from my aunt, and seem to be the only one in my family’s generation to do so. Except, lately, for one brother who doesn’t know it yet, and will have to be told, sooner or later! Deafness is like that — it sneaks up on you.
It is only right that I should get deaf — divine retribution, perhaps, for the fact that, as a child, I was not patient with Auntie’s hearing problems. This was back in the 1930s and I don’t think there were modern-type hearing aids available in those times, so there was not much she could do about it. I am ashamed to admit this, even to my two readers who know me so well — when Auntie would ask me to repeat something, I would sigh heavily, and roll my eyes. (Or at least I did when Mother and Daddy were not around, so obviously I did have a subliminal conscience — I just never consulted it!).
My deafness started, as far as I know, right after marriage, and, no, I don’t think there was any connection, thank you very much. While MHTB was finishing seminary at Gettysburg, I worked out of town at my dream job proofreading books for Doubleday in nearby Hanover. Four of us wives drove down to work every weekday together. At first all was well, but as time went on I noticed that the girls in the front seat talked among themselves a lot, and also with my seatmate, but so low I couldn’t make out what they were saying. It didn’t take long for me to decide that they didn’t care to include me in the conversation, and as one often does at such times, I decided to rise above it and carry on as usual, because they were friendly when I saw them at other times. It has only occurred to me in recent years that that is when my deafness first became apparent — except it wasn’t apparent to me for a while yet.
You’d think somebody would have noticed, because MHTB was also deaf and wore one hearing aid all his adult life. The children (grown-up now, of course) roar with laughter when they reminisce about dinners around the dining room table every night for a while, when both MHTB and I carried on conversations completely at cross purposes with each other, while they listened in delight. It might go something like, “Maude, this is good,” and I would say, “Well, of course it is food — this is dinner, after all.” One (now grown-up) child reminisces that it was like a tennis match, as we volleyed the deafness up and down the table. Fortunately that stopped when I finally realized something had to be done, and so I did it. Resulting in hearing aids in both ears for the rest of my life. I am now deciding about whether to ask the undertakers to keep my hearing aids in. (Just in case.) But I can’t figure out how to get the batteries changed after that.
Because, let me tell you, deafness is almost as bad as blindness in some ways, and one thing is sure, it is alienates more people. They don’t understand that you didn’t answer them, not because you hate them, but because you didn’t hear them!
Even hearing aids don’t always solve the problem completely, as least not in my case. Especially the tiny one I tried once that fits deep inside the ear, Every time I smiled my hearing went out. The whole world went silent. Ever since I have settled for the ones that are in plain sight (if you’re looking) and I couldn’t care less — because, I can HEAR!
Not always accurately, though. Just last week, I was in the front seat of the car with two grandchildren in the back. Nine-year-old Q had to get out (immediately!) and crawled over his big brother to do it. B, like all big brothers, viewed this operation dimly. “You’re an abominable little beast,” he remarked amiably, as big brothers so often do. “Well,” I said tartly, “if he has to vomit a little beer then it’s good he’s getting out.” No, don’t ask. I have no idea how I heard it that way, nor did it fit in with Q’s life habits, nor with any of my experiences. I was going on the premise that B was exaggerating for the fun of it — definitely part of his style — and I just decided to go along with it.
Big mistake. I have not heard the last of it yet. (When I decide to listen!)
So, you see, hearing aids are not miraculous, but, I have to say, close to it. I have never understood those folks who get one and then leave it in the drawer until they go out. You will never get used to it that way. The first week I had mine, music sounded awful. (I’m not talking about rock and rap, which genuinely IS awful.) Still, within a week of wearing hearing aids daily, morning to night, music went back to being music, thank goodness. And actually it helped me in my own singing: I was able to place my tones more accurately, and hear more of what was going on.
I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the world’s problems could be assigned to faulty hearing. All those international summits, and the relatively old guys that mostly attend them — how many wars, and rumors of wars, I wonder result from mishearing what the other side says. Or how they say it.
Get your hearing aids out of the drawer and wear them, folks. That noisy seven days or so of adjustment is worth the rest of your life.
Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.