Anne Merdinger: At last I accepted a hearing aid |

Anne Merdinger: At last I accepted a hearing aid

For the first three years of my life I had constant ear infections, which is how it was discovered that I was allergic to almost all the antibiotics around at the time.

At age 3, my tonsils were removed, which is what they did back then (no tubes in the ears), and the ear infections mostly stopped. Permanent damage was done, however, and I never passed a hearing test. Fortunately, my right ear compensated for the hearing loss in the left, and thankfully, since I’m a musician, I have always had a good ear for pitch.

By age 40, I realized I was having a hard time understanding people and started developing coping strategies, such as looking at the person talking. When I still couldn’t understand, I’d pretend I did and answer according to what seemed to make sense.

By age 50, I was driving my family crazy from “what-what-what-ing” and needing the TV turned up louder and louder.

About 10 years ago, I was told I needed hearing aids. Although I already knew that, I didn’t like it. My insurance didn’t cover them, and they were super expensive, and I insisted I couldn’t afford them.

It’s true it would have been uncomfortable to pay for them at the time, but I also know that’s a poor excuse because we tend to find ways to get the things we prioritize. The truth was I felt a stigma attached to hearing aids. Wearing them would signify I was old.

Not surprisingly, my hearing only got worse in the following years until it reached the point where it drove me as crazy as it did my family. I inherited some money and had no more rational excuses.

This past January, I went to an audiologist and discovered that the hearing loss in my left ear was profound, but in my right ear not so bad. Still, the testing revealed that there were consonants I was not hearing at all. I had two kinds of hearing loss. I realized it was time.

So I got a hearing aid for my left ear. You can’t see it unless you look for it. And I wondered why I had thought it was so terrible to have one. The truth is, I love it!

The best part is not feeling stressed out from trying so hard to understand what people are saying. The only “what-ing” now doesn’t come from not hearing, but from not paying attention. No more complaints about the volume of the TV. When I put it on in the morning, suddenly the world becomes alive, more vivid. Kind of a miracle after all these years.

I’m sharing this story because I no longer feel ashamed about needing a hearing aid, and I wish I had gotten it sooner, for my sake and for the sake of my family.

Another bonus is that my voice has gotten softer. I recently talked to my aunt about hearing aids and found out my uncle and his mom, my grandma, both were supposed to wear hearing aids and refused, making life more difficult for those around them.

So that’s my story, and if it encourages someone who needs to take that step, then it was worth sharing.

Anne Merdinger lives in Nevada City.

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