For years, I have watched as my mother’s hearing has deteriorated. She gave answers that made no sense. She strained to hear store clerks and waitresses. She remained quiet during family conversations. To the outside world, she appeared addled and confused. To her children, it was apparent that my mother had become a quiet bystander, whose sole contribution to a conversation was a whisper in Chinese that she couldn’t hear what someone was saying.
Hearing aids have helped somewhat. Without them, she cannot hear a thing. But her most recent in-the-ear model was becoming increasingly ineffective. To make matters worse, the hearing aids whizzed constantly. The worse her hearing got, the higher the volume she needed. The higher the volume, the more frequent the whizzing.
And so after much persuading, she finally got a new Siemens Motion behind-the-ear model yesterday, The hearing aid goes up and around to the back of the ear, where it is attached to a clear-colored mold inside the ear. With my mother’s hair covering the hearing aid, it’s hard to see that she’s wearing a device, a fact that appealed to my mom’s vanity.
The minute, she put it on, her demeanor changed. She was no longer frowning as we spoke. She could answer our questions without a perpetual look of uncertainty. When the secretary came to the doorway and asked her a question, my mother answered without hesitation.
Change doesn’t come easily to older adults, and my mom is no exception. She asked her audiologist about returning the hearing aid if she didn’t like it and implied again that she could have simply adjusted her old ones. But as the audiologist told her, another bump up in volume would have meant more whizzing, and the time had come for something new. She simply had to give herself some time to adjust to it, which I’m hoping she will.
Watching my mother wrestle with hearing loss has taught me how essential it is that we hear the world around us. Without the ability to hear, we are separated from others and isolated, which can be frightening. Hearing loss can also shake your confidence. It can make you sad, lonely and confused.
So turn down the volume, and wear those earplugs.