I heard the unfortunate words loud and clear from my audiologist: “Your hearing aids can’t make up your deficit in your word discrimination.” 

In the just-completed hearing test, I recoiled each too-often time the monotone voice said, “Say [indistinctive word],” causing me to just wild guess. My only hope was that my hearing aids could mitigate the problem.

Learning that my high-tech hearing aids couldn’t help me distinguish “hate” from “ate” produced both anger and despair. I thought these mini-computers in my head were really “bionic ears.”

As I had just turned three-score and 10, I took my hearing loss as a depressing introduction to That 70s Life.  

Shortly after I flunked my hearing test, I figured that if I bit the bullet, closed captioning could reduce the impact of my word-recognition loss on TV.

But first I would have to get over my image of closed captioning as the staple of senior-living movie nights. Fortunately, it took me much less time to be comfortable with closed captioning than it did to accept hearing aids.

My wife first suggested I get a hearing test after “what?” started to be a too-common household question. I was in my mid-50s and not crazy about getting a senior-citizen accoutrement.

My bad attitude was not abated by my choice of a hearing aid dispensary, staffed by a dispenser/salesman and not an audiologist. Only my left ear needed an aid, but it never, ever fit well and went on the blink too much, featuring an annoying buzz. My hearing back then was not compromised that much, so I gave up wearing this problematic device after a year or two.

The beginning of my acceptance of hearing aids began 10 years ago, when I decided to seek help from a very professional audiology practice in my hometown. This practice provided me with a state-of-the-art model that never buzzed in my ear, amplified sound well, and was almost invisible.

This microchip ear clip was expensive, but I still had a one-ear discount due to a relatively normal right ear. Over the next few years, my hearing aid, together with my glasses and my MasterCard, were items I gladly never left home without.

A hearing test in 2018, though, indicated I now needed a right ear aid. I feared I was entering the old-codger, two-hearing-aids existence.

But before I could really contemplate this ego dent, I got the double whammy of a $7,000 tab for my impaired hearing. I immediately asked my audiologist if there was a slightly cheaper set, as I was willing to give up hearing all the bells and dog whistles that $7,000 should provide.

My audiologist, though, with a modicum of sympathy, said there was nothing comparable at a lower price. Thus, I purchased the Cadillac of aural enhancement, which immediately moved into third place as my most valuable possession, behind my house and my car.

Still, until two months ago, when I received my “lack of word discrimination” hearing test results, I had stopped dwelling on the cost and accepted my expensive hearing aids as comfortably essential for daily activity.

But now I feel stuck with these un-amazing hearing aids, which were more expensive than half the inventory on a used-car lot but can’t keep American movie audio from sounding as indiscernible as Scottish.

So I tried to ignore the shame in that stock saying: “Close captioning available for the hearing impaired.” Plus, I was surprised to find that some friends were turning on CC.

I have worked on setting CC on all the various venues I use to view movies. I still have not figured out Amazon Prime’s CC access. This was a problem on a recent movie, Tender Bar, which included extensive dialogue where the young protagonist’s uncle provided life lessons. I know I missed a few lessons that were profound because they were delivered by Ben Affleck.

Sure, I’m not happy that my hearing is now downgraded to CC. Thankfully, though, I have good internal hearing, so when that little voice says that at 70, I should feel grateful that hearing loss is my only age-related physical challenge, I hear the voice loud and clear.


Bill Levine is a retired IT professional and active freelance writer. Bill aspires to be a humorist because it is easier to be pithy than funny. He may be reached at wlevine0607@comcast.net.

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