Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hear Young: No Matter What Your Age!

A long time ago, when I was inducted into the U.S. Navy, I was given a hearing test. The Doctor said, “I have good news and bad news. Your low frequencies are OK, but you have problems with your high frequencies.” Yet, I could hear well enough to take orders, so he passed me.

I have spent the rest of my life “passing”, until recently as aging began to take its toll. I now find that my “OK low frequencies” are no longer enough to follow conversations in a crowded room, to hide the frustration of not understanding what my wife or best friend is talking about, of going to a movie or a play and missing half of the dialogue.

As a “Senior Citizen”, I began to feel growing social isolation; an inability to function in noisy, hectic environments which won’t allow me to hear and correctly respond to the world around me. Finally, I have to admit that my vanity doesn’t want me to “look old”, to wear those big, cumbersome hearing aids that so many of the “old folks” seem to be wearing. Of course, I am growing old, but I don’t want to advertise the fact to the world!

Finally, a much younger friend who has a hearing disability since childhood, tells me about her new “hearing glasses”. She says that she has finally made peace with wearing hearing aids when he realized that almost everybody wears eye glasses in order to correct visual deficiencies or as protection from the sun’s glare. She then realized that hearing disabilities are the same. Like eye glasses, hearing aids are just another way for each of us to more fully and naturally experience the world.

“And they can be a fashion statement as well,” she exclaims, pulling aside her hair. At first, I don’t even see the hearing aid. Then I notice an almost invisible clear plastic tube nestled inside her ear, and hidden behind the top of her ear, a tiny flesh-colored capsule. In that tiny space, less than three peas laid end to end, is a sophisticated computer powered by a battery half the size of a pea. This allows her to experience the world around her in all the wonderful frequencies of life, with four instant-touch programs to hear normal conversations, or intimate conversations in a crowd, or all the beauty of music, even a noise-stopping silence program when he wants to quiet the sound around her.

Was I convinced? Not until I shopped around for the perfect, almost invisible “ear glasses” which exactly fit my own particular needs. And now, for the first time in my long life, I can hear the birds sing outside my window, I can hear Mozart’s music like I never have heard it before, I can fully enjoy and understand all the dialogue in a movie or play, and I don’t have to exclaim “What did you say?” to my wife and best friends when we’re having a conversation.

You can let your days come alive, too. Life is beautiful, when you can see it clearly, and hear all the music and joy it offers.

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