Hearing Aid Denial Guest Post by Dave Johnson

"Pardon?" That was my father's 'shorthand' for
"Pardon me, missed that; would you please say that
again?And as a high-school kid, I would sit there
and think, "just admit that you have a bad hearing
problem, go out and get hearing aids, and rejoin the
human race!". It was ten more years before Dad got
his first set of hearing aids. I really never could
figure out his reluctance to admit that he had a
hearing problem. . . . Until I turned sixty-nine and
discovered myself going through the same process.
We live in a culture where graying hair, baldness,
wrinkles, or age spots are a precursor to a rapid
downhill decline. And, getting old in America is
still not cool. Sort of like getting leprosy in biblical
times. Not good.
But, back to my problem; at first, while quietly
struggling to
hear people conversing with me, I would move
closer to the speaker, almost imperceptibly usurping
that small and precious no-mans land we refer to as
our 'personal space.' This would generally result in
'creeping out' the speaker, and cause him to
instinctively move back one step, totally eliminating
the advantage gained. I never did attempt to read
The second ploy, even though it seemed to be a good
idea at the time, was; if I missed part of the
sentence, but saw a smile, a nod, and a look of eager
expectancy in the speaker's eyes - I would just
AGREE to keep the speaker happy and maintain the
even flow of the conversation. That went fine until,
during one fateful conversation, I came to the
realization that I had just joined The Tea Party. It
makes me wonder how many people hiding their
deafness have accepted marriage proposals and have
later been too embarrassed to reverse the outcome.
What amazes me in this anecdote, is that I got
sucked in to the very same behavior that my father
displayed just fifty years ago. I don't think it's male
vanity that keeps us in denial when our hearing starts
to go; as we age, our bodies usually betray us in
many other, more obvious ways. We sustain heart
surgeries, face lifts, tummy tucks, knee and hip
replacements, and dentures, and there is rarely a
ripple in our 'macho' reservoir of anxiety.
So why is it that many of us are in such denial over
something as simple as hearing loss? Well, here are
a few thoughts on the subject. First and foremost,
we are 'hearing' twenty-four hours a day. Unless
caused by trauma of some sort, hearing loss is
VERY gradual and hence insidious process. We just
don't see it coming because it just creeps up in us.
Second, our various surgeries, cortisone shots, and
multiple prescriptions don't 'show;' they are non-
invasive, subtle. reminders of our aging.
One primary reason for our denial is because some
of us remember the analogue hearing aids if twenty
five years ago. They were large and bulky with
plastic ear molds, that whistled loudly as a result of
feedback, and were many times turned off by the
wearer so that he or she could escape the badly
amplified sound that the appliance was pumping into
their heads. Most of these units merely amplified
the sound of people talking around us and did little
to define and isolate the sound frequencies that we
couldn't pick up as a result of our specific hearing
Luckily, hearing aid technology has advanced
rapidly over the last ten years, and the newer,
smaller and more efficient units, both analogue and
digital, are available in models that are readily
programmable (and adaptable) to the wearer's
individual hearing needs.
No longer is special emphasis placed on HIDING
the hearing aid; in fact, the newer 'behind the ear'
models are being sold in a wide variety of bright
colors and contemporary graphic designs.
When President Clinton opted for a pair of digital
hearing aids to supplement his hearing loss a few
years ago, many Americans began to realize that the
stigma associated with wearing hearing aids was
rapidly fading away.
Now that our culture has given the nod to defeating
this unspoken hurdle, when are you going to 'man-
up' and get your hearing tested