Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Sonic Boom

I'm "of the age" where I've discovered that my hearing (among other senses) is not what it used to be. Of course, my family and friends have been telling me for years that my hearing was on the fritz, but I didn't really believe it was all that bad; that is, until I started noticing that I couldn't even hear conversations at restaurants unless the person was sitting directly across from me or to either side. I found myself tuning out a lot.

Then, one day in late 2019, I visited an ENT for an ear infection, and as part of my exam, an audiologist tested my hearing. After the test, more detailed that any I'd had before, she showed me the results, which indicated fairly significant hearing loss in both ears. She told me that I could "really benefit" from hearing aids and offered me a pair to try. Curious as to the results, I put them in and walked outside. I was surprised to find that I could hear the fallen dry leaves hitting each other. It's kind of like when you get glasses, then realize that you're supposed to be able to see the leaves on trees. Anyway, I thought the situation over for about five minutes and opted to invest in a pair of Widex Evokes. Hey, who can resist hearing aids that are made in Denmark run by a company whose CEO is named Jorgen Jensen? I mean, there's something to be said for that.

Well, let me tell you, hearing aids have come a long way, my friends. They no longer are the brownish-yellowish behemoth attachments that sit on the back of the ear. Today's models come in all kinds of styles and designer colors. (I'm certain that some of this heightened aesthetic demand is because they're now used by all us Baby Boomers who spent so much time attenuating our hearing at "hard rock concerts" and now want something high-tech but low-profile.) Anyway, the pair I have is this matte grayish silver, and they feature Bluetooth connectivity along with AI-based sound profile creation. What this means is not only can I stream music at any time I have my phone around (which is always), and also carry on private and audible phone conversations, but that the hearing aids actually adapt to the ambient noise for any location that I'm in. This is all very transparent to the user, by the way, except when it's not, which can be interesting and generally humorous.

One thing notable about my entry into the land of artificially-enhanced hearing was that I made it last December, shortly before the pandemic started. That meant that I only had to deal with the noise of the world (much of which I hadn't previously noticed) for only a few months before beginning work at home, in a nice, peaceful environment. So I'm thinking that as we re-enter the riotous post-pandemic world, the adaptability feature of the hearing aids is going to be working overtime to compensate for all the cacophony. As it stands now, I can hear conversations several tables away at quiet restaurants, and that's not even turning up the volume. If I wanted to go all Mission: Impossible, I could jack them up to 10 and hear impending invasions of fire ants and probably lots of other stuff I'd rather not know about.

So, here's the thing: if someone that you trust tells you that you need hearing aids, don't be frightened. Honestly, I love mine. They are expensive, but they are so worth it, and once you have them, you'll think of them just like glasses or contact lenses. As musician Brian Jackson says about his pair, "Life is so much better when you can hear all the colors." Amen to that.