Short answer: Hearing. And if you’re 28 0r 30 and figure you can skip this article, you just..might..want to linger a moment if you’re thinking you might make it to 50 or 6o some day.
To solve the above riddle, the tricky one is the dog whistle. The T-37 twin jet trainer,which I learned to fly on, had that nickname for a reason. High-pitched jet engines will deafen you in 45 seconds should you forget your bunny ears. Add to that one memorable Joe Cocker concert at F&M played at 5000 db, plus a torrid love affair with Ms.Winchester, Ms. Remington, and Ms. Colt…and you’ve planted the seeds for a visit to….guess where: Costco! …..Huh?
Costco: is an interesting corporation that wisely realized that hearing aids are soooo overpriced that they could actually give people a break on the cost and still make gobs of money. Truth be known, I doubt that the actual components of any hearing aid cost much more than $100. But watch out. You can splurge and spend 3 or 4k a pair if you go to a boutique supplier who sells three or four a week. Check it out for yourself and spend a fraction of that amount. I am in no one’s pocket. I already paid full price for mine. But I did my homework on Google, as did the New York Times in a recent article. Figure on paying about half as much at Costco, and…the examination is included in the price.
Tinnitus: It’s a phantom sound, which means it’s occurring inside your brain. Shove an earplug in your ear and you’ll hear the tinnitus even better! It’s the reward you can get from living la vida loca. LOVE rock concerts? Me too! But, ya play…ya pay. I paid dearly.
Coping: Where tinnitus gets tricky is if you find yourself fixating on the sound as in, “For the love of GOD, please go away for just five f–king minutes of silence!” Tinnitus won’t ever go away except when you’re asleep. I don’t think there’s a term for audio claustrophobia…but it’s real. There were times early-on when I wanted to gouge my ear out. Don’t do that…the tinnitus might still be there. The only deal in town, and trust me, is to make peace with the monster.
Some people don’t try. Some have nervous break-downs. Some have worse…the worst. The word of the day is: ADAPT. I call tinnitus my on-call white noise machine because sometimes, when one of my pups (or some other individual) is snoring in bed, I can turn my bad ear in their direction and Voila!!! I’m not a big rap music fan and I do my little maneuver for that as well. And you’d be surprised to discover how many people have hearing loss and/or tinnitus. The thing is, no one wants to admit it much less talk about it.
And here’s the crux of this story: Your biggest enemy? Care to guess? It’s our own ego. Go look in the mirror. That’s the person you have to convince and win over. For men and women, no matter how intelligent you are, the argument goes: But, it puts me into a different category. It starts with a G and rhymes with tweezer. No one on the planet wants that label. But guess what, when you have to ask your family and friends to repeat themselves…fairly often, they already know what’s going on. And the truth is, they’d MUCH, MUCH prefer you stick something totally invisible behind your ear so you can re-enter the human race.
Question: Do you find sometimes that when you go out with friends to a noisy restaurant, you’re faking the amount you understand more than you used to? Join the club. Because most of my affliction occurs in the right ear, I would carefully plan and claim the chair that pointed my “good ear” in the desired direction. It sorta works a little bit… Does it fool my friends? I seriously doubt it.
My first experience with people who really needed hearing aids. My in-laws. God, it was awful. Decades ago we’d fly down to Florida to visit them at their apartment in Sea Winds. Their TV was set to stun small animals and when they talked to each other, it was just below an all-out yell. Both insisted they didn’t need any help. In fact, their pig-headedness truly cut them off from the world. I vowed not to go that route twenty years ago.
A Point: I think we boomers should come up with a better term than hearing aid. It stinks. I don’t like it and I don’t intend to put up with it. Ever hear of Blue Tooth? It’s state of the art. Now, with a little help from my friends, we substitute Silver Tooth for the mundane… hearing aid. I’ve got a state-of -the-art Silver Tooth, that’s T-coil and i-Pod enabled…AND IT ROCKS!!!
Vanity: Like most mature guys, I am quietly vain and highly insecure. First fitting yesterday, Dave at Costco slips a thing the size of a teardrop jelly bean behind my ear and a tiny tube in my ear. I ask Pam, “How bad is it?” I turn my head so she can see. She puts on her glasses. “Did he put it in? I can’t see anything. I can’t see anything at all!” Bottom Line: technology has gotten better. It’s not like the olden days. It’s virtually invisible.
Das Test: Takes half an hour and is more sophisticated than you might expect. Tip: DON”T CHEAT! Dave related an anecdote of a middle-aged guy who really wanted to ace the test. Two minutes into it, Dave stopped. “I’m not playing anything and you’re still hitting the damn button. Do you want to play or do you want me to help you?” The test was painless and about as effortless as you can get. I was surprised. By the way, Dave was aces.
First Impressions: The part behind your ear is about the same as when you first put glasses on. In short, if you’ve worn glasses or sunglasses, no big deal. The wire goes in your ear. You can feel it a little but I’m pretty sure in an hour or so your brain will forget about it. Not heavy, not intrusive.
The Sound: Dave warned me. He said, “Your brain has been adapting to your lousy hearing in your right ear for years. What you hear will sound too loud…period. In reality, it will be exactly the same as what your left ear experiences. It takes time for your brain to relearn. ” He was right. It sounded a bit sharp and a bit loud. More importantly, however, I felt like my right ear had been turned off for the past five years. It was back on again. Pam and I walked around Costco, a noisy, tinny, non-desirable place to test a hearing aid (?) Dave had an answer ready: “Go walk around in the real world, Henry.” Point taken.
Pamela noticed two things right away. (1) I was smiling (2) I was talking more softly. Pam always walks on my left. Today she walked on my right and then behind me. She talked softly and even turned away as she spoke……..and I COULD HEAR HER! Then she started murmuring little naughty things behind me and I began cracking up. Yeah. It works. Dave said it’d take me 20+ minutes to even give it any kind of a fair chance. It took me five. We walked back and I jutted two thumbs way up in the air.
A surprise I wasn’t expecting: He removed my ‘invisible dual-quad, supercharged, hemi-head Silver Tooth’ and here’s exactly what it felt like. It felt like someone had yanked the wire off one of my stereo speakers. It felt like someone had made a loud noise and I was temporarily deafened. I wanted it back, even after five minutes.
The most important thing you need to take to Costco is a positive attitude. All else will fall into place. I expect to give you a follow-up in the near future.
P.S. You’d be amazed how many famous people have hearing problems. Start with about 75% of all the 60s-80s rock stars. Add Stephen Colbert, Bill Shatner, Bill Clinton, Rob Lowe, and a cast of thousands and you’ll get the idea.
Some questions I have that no one has answered yet. Like Bose speakers, is there any progress in isolating the sound of my tinnitus so my Silver Tooth can produce an out-of-phase signal…effectively canceling out my tinnitus? No one can answer that for me……YET. Anyone interested in pursuing this???
Question two: Do they make sunglasses that incorporate a Silver Tooth into the eyeglass arms? It’s prime real estate for the device and would make them even more convenient.
Question Three: With Graphene and other technological breakthroughs, can I expect my Silver Tooth to have a base and treble so I can get really, really super sound interpretation? If not…. CHOP CHOP. We boomers know what’s possible. Let’s get working on the newest iteration of Silver Tooth. Beethoven is waiting, Shubert is waiting. The Band is waiting. JT is waiting. CCR is waiting. Rap music? Not so much.