Su Lum: Slumming
December 17, 2008
After a decade of having tubes put into my eardrums by Dr. Goodstein, I reached a critical fork in the twisting path. Several years ago I got a hole in my right eardrum and had to limp along with a single tube in the left. When that drum, too, developed a hole (cutely called a “perf” for perforation), tubes were no longer an option and it was time, Dr. Goodstein told me, for Amplification. Meaning hearing aids.
At a time of life when keeping track of my pills and oxygen takes most of what’s left of my wits, the addition of a new device was somewhat chilling but definitely mandatory.
I could manage with one ear, despite regular and sometimes amusing misunderstandings, but not with none.
Historic Task Force meetings were tantamount to a mime show, and dining out was hopeless. When, after a gradual decline, the death knell rang for my left ear, I made tracks to audiologist Terry Burke, my biggest fear being that hearing aids might not help.
The good news was that Dr. Burke assured me that my life would change dramatically for the better. The bad news was that the only aids I could use (because of the “perfs”) cost a fortune ($6,500), were not covered by insurance and required a good deal of daily maintenance and due diligence.
I got the hearing aids last Thursday, and the results were indeed dramatic. Dr. Burke’s almost inaudible voice became a shout, his computer keys clattered shrilly, airplanes roared overhead as I tried to concentrate on his instructions about battery replacement, cleaning, small tools to keep the device free of ear wax, warnings to avoid ingestion by dachshund puppies, advice to disable the batteries at night, not to sleep with them on, not to get them wet and by the way, they wouldn’t help me on the telephone at all.
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The aids looked about as substantial as a daddy long-legs. An inch long piece of plastic behind the top of the ear, a clear plastic wire with a tiny, soft mushroom-shaped tip that goes in the ear hole, and another short plastic wire that curls into the ear cavity to hold it all in place.
Feeling like a new mother taking home her first baby, I set out for The Aspen Times amidst booming traffic noise (how sweet the previously muffled sound!) and the counterproductive amplification of my oxygen, which puffs of the inhale, arriving in the middle of an ad department meeting where everyone seemed to be screaming and I could hear every word instead of every sixth word. Joy!
My first comeuppance occurred when the meeting ended and I settled down to work. At the Times, I keep a permanent extra pair of reading/computer glasses, which I alternate with my bifocals as needed. I took off the bifocals, which ripped the daddy-long legs out of my ears and into my hair.
Over the years I’ve found it prudent, when making small forays to the printer or fax machine, to remove my oxygen cannula and hang it on my computer mouse, rather than carrying my Helios oxygen tank with me. I took off the cannula and ripped the hearing aids out again.
Since I have two different types of cannulas ” one for my house leash and one for the Helios portable tank ” I am clearly going to have to slow down and think this through until it becomes automatic, but right now it seems that there are altogether too many objects in the limited space behind my ears, and I am concerned about putting the delicate device in and out too much when, ideally, I’d put them in in the morning, take them out at bedtime and be done with it.
I was on my house leash when friends and I were rushing off to Barry Smith’s (great) show at the Wheeler. Haste definitely makes waste. When I removed the house leash, out flew the aids, which I stuffed into their case, having forgotten the case instructions, and then tried to reinsert (this was my first day with the aids) them in the theater. The upside was, when I finally got one of them in, if somewhat awry, I could hear every word.
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