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May 6, 2013

BOWYER: Hearing aids prove to be not much help

I know my hearing isn’t what it used to be, but it’s a long way from being completely shot. I can still carry on a phone conversation with a business associate, or a conversation with a friend without using an ear trumpet or a $5,000 hearing aid, although it gets kind of tough in a noisy restaurant. I do have a constant ringing in my ears from working around machinery all of my life, (most of that time was before the advent of ear plugs) and I also flew airplanes for about 25 years or so, which doesn’t help. Nevertheless, I am a ways yet from needing a hearing aid badly enough to buy one.

Janie urged me to try one once because I always wanted the volume on the television a notch higher than she did, so I tried one and found that when I turned the volume on it up so I could hear the TV better, I could also hear everything else better, including background noise. When I set the volume on the hearing aid where I could hear the TV at the volume level Janie wanted it set, I was still no better off than before. They try to tell you today that the hearing aids they are selling now will mask the background noise. I would say anyone who believes that will buy an interest in the Brooklyn Bridge.

Sad to say, however, the world has left me behind wherein perfect hearing is a requirement. My hearing certainly isn’t what it used to be when I was middle aged, but we used to get a little help from a guy called the “sound man” when they made a movie. It was his job to elevate the volume on whispering so it was audible to the audience and tone the noisy parts down a bit so they didn’t deafen the audience. I don’t know what happened to him, but he must have died and I guess they haven’t found anyone else who can do the job. It isn’t just me either; people a lot younger than I am have made the same complaint. I have made recordings also, so I know that job has to be done.

It’s the same in auditoriums or at church. One minute I’m being driven back into my seat by the sound and the next minute I’m leaning forward so far to hear, I slip off the seat and fall on the floor. I finally put in a complaint to the minister because I pay pretty good money to go to church. I said, “I can certainly hear you when you rev up the volume, and I can hear you when you talk normally. I can even hear you when you talk softly to make a point, but when you whisper, I may as well take a nap, because I can’t hear you anymore. I’ll admit I have lost some of my hearing. I’ve lost some other things I wish I had back, too. Everyone does and I’m not Superman, wish I was, but I’m not.

I guess I am writing this article as a sort of complaint, because I’m tired of getting up off of the floor. I have seen the cartoons of the old men with their hand cupping their ear and saying, “Eh, what’d you say, young feller?” Well, I’m not going to do that. I’ll just ignore the whole conversation first. That may seem impolite, but I don’t care. There are enough ways for old people to look foolish without fishing for a conversation that is difficult to reel in.

I see now they are advertising an earwax vacuum they are trying to sell. It’s supposed to help your hearing, and to hear them tell it you shouldn’t use a Q-Tip in your ear because you might puncture your eardrum. I’d venture a guess that anyone dumb enough to puncture an eardrum by jamming a Q-Tip into it would have a little trouble shoving a vacuum in there, too. If that thing cranked up enough suction to pull out earwax, I would think it would suck out an eardrum, too. Maybe they can fine-tune them enough to do the job though. I’ve seen some pretty high-tech stuff lately.

Maybe someday they will even make a hearing aid that will do what they say it will, and I’ll buy one. Don’t know what for though. Now that I’m alone I can turn up the volume as loud as I want, and company is too polite to tell me to turn my own TV down. What’s more, I’m getting pretty good at ignoring conversations that bore me, so if you are talking to me, and I am sitting there smiling at you with a sort of absent look in my eyes, I am probably not listening to a word you are saying. When I was younger I always wondered why older people didn’t answer me sometimes, and now I know.

We’re not being impolite. Well, maybe we are, but the truth is we have heard it all by the time we reach a certain age, and we have earned the privilege of not listening to it again. This goes double in the case of some windbag politician filling the air with promises and lies. We just don’t want to hear it.

Joe Bowyer is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached via email at jjbowyer@hotmail.com.

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