It seems as if ever since I hit age 65, much of my mail has contained ads for hearing aids. Every time I receive one, I smile and think of my late husband, who, after 10 years of my constant nagging, finally had his hearing tested and was fitted with two hearing aids.
The minute he wore the hearing aids for the first time, his eyes lit up and his mouth fell open. “Is this what everything is supposed to sound like?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. “What does it sound like?”
“Gee, you don’t have to yell!” he said.
“I’m talking in my normal voice.”
“Your normal voice is that loud?”
“Yeah, it got that way from having to yell all the time so you could hear me!”
Things got only worse after that.
First of all, he used to keep the volume on the TV cranked up to over 30. Even the neighbors down the road could hear which shows we were watching. Once he got his hearing aids, however, he turned the volume down to about an eight. It was so low, I practically had to read lips just to watch my favorite programs.
And then he began hearing noises and sounds he’d never heard before.
“When are you going to get the dogs’ toenails clipped?” he complained one night. “All of the clicking when they walk across the floor is driving me crazy!”
Before then, the dogs could have worn tap shoes and danced the tango across the floor and he wouldn’t have heard a thing.
He also complained when I was cooking.
“Have you always done so much pot banging and clanging when you’re cooking?” he asked. “You sound like the drummer in a heavy-metal band! And do you have to keep slamming the refrigerator door?”
Unfortunately, I no longer could mutter something under my breath without him hearing me.
But the hearing aids also brought some unexpected perks. For one thing, he used to spend all day singing...loudly. He would choose a song the minute he woke up in the morning, and then sing that same song over and over again all day long. One day, in August, he sang about 400 choruses of “White Christmas.” Then a few days later, he sang, “Bringing in the Sheaves” – except his version was “Bringing in the Sheep.” I tried to correct him, but before he got the hearing aids, he couldn’t hear me anyway.
The morning after he got them, however, he woke up and started singing, some old Elvis tune, then stopped abruptly. I wondered if all of my wishing that he’d develop a prolonged case of laryngitis finally had come true.
“You know what?” he said to me. “I always thought I had a great singing voice, like the next Sinatra. But now that I can hear myself so loud and clear, my singing really irritates me!”
“Welcome to my world,” I said.
In the past, he also had the habit of tapping on things. When he sat in his recliner, he’d pick up the first thing he could reach on the end table – a coaster, the remote control – and without even realizing he was doing it, would start tapping it against the table. I began to feel as if I’d married Woody Woodpecker. He even would pick up his prescription bottles and shake them like maracas.
When I’d ask him to please stop, he’d look at me as if I were strange and say, “How can you possibly hear such light tapping? I’m sitting right here doing it and I can’t hear it.”
Well, the minute he started tapping when he was wearing his hearing aids for the first time, the look on his face was one of complete shock. “Does it always sound this loud?” he asked.
“No, sometimes it’s even louder,” I said. “Kind of like an automatic weapon.”
But the best part was he couldn’t snack the way he once did. Potato chips and corn chips always were his snacks of choice, but with the hearing aids, he could hear the crunching in stereo in his head, and it drowned out his TV shows. Even when he turned down the volume on his hearing aids, he still could hear the crunching. So he ate a lot fewer snacks. His blood, which was so high in cholesterol it could have been used as axle grease, thanked him for it.
He once even accused me of brushing my teeth too loudly.
“It’s a wonder you still have any enamel left on your teeth!” he said. “You sound like you’re scraping them with sandpaper!”
When he first got the hearing aids, the audiologist told him that when he took them out at night to be sure to keep them where our dogs couldn’t reach them, because to dogs, they were as alluring as rawhide treats.
Believe me, there were times when my husband complained about my being too loud that I was tempted to permanently hide his hearing aids while he slept at night.
I figured I could always blame the dogs.
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