Opinion Columns & Blogs

HARMON: Eh, say what?

The idea of losing one’s hearing is not pleasant and can take its toll on even the strongest of families. Hearing loss can result in hurt feelings, misunderstandings, accidents, frustration and anger.

According to literature, hearing loss can be sensorineural, caused by aging, or damage to ear hair (something I have plenty of) or conductive, caused by an obstruction in the outer or middle ear.

The former is best treated with a hearing aid, so I took my 93-year-old mother to the Miracle Ear store the other day because we had experienced all of the above. She’s going to get a hearing aid and it’s probably coming at just the right time. It was either a hearing aid or my sister and me seeing a psychologist or an anger management expert because at some point, unless measures are taken — when a loved one’s hearing goes — your sanity can go with it.

It’s a strange thing how this audile madness happens, but you find yourself, if you’re around the auditorily challenged long enough — shouting and repeating things three or four times — that as that habit sets in, you’re shouting at other people in the house who, if they’ve been around the aurally deficient, are shouting also, thinking you can’t hear any better than they can. It usually ends up with everyone wondering why everyone is shouting until you realize everyone but the one with the problem can hear just fine.

At 93 this woman I’ve known for 68 years is still doing most of the things she did at 50, including an occasional ride on a bicycle or a few tennis drills, although she can no longer hear the ball hit the strings. She works out on an exercise bike four times a week and cooks like the White House chef, although she can no longer hear the toast burning (if you can, please write). She still drives but mostly alone for obvious reasons. We are a family of cowards.

Mom’s middle name is Belle, but she hasn’t been able to hear one for 10 years and there are other things she’s missed out on also, such as the profanity on television, rap music, Al Sharpton’s shrill monologues and drivers screaming out their windows at her golf cart, which usually results in a big wave and smile as she thinks someone wants to be friends.

We use closed captioning on the television and you haven’t experienced life on the other side of the defunct cochlea until you do that for a week or so. You’ll think you’ve lost your own hearing and with it the ability to spell all but the simplest of words as the programmers just cannot keep up with the intelligent dialogue you find on the idiot box. It’s either that or you have to turn the volume up so loud the dogs howl.

The people at Miracle Ear were great and were as concerned about our loss of intelligence as they were mother’s hearing. They asked if we found ourselves repeating ourselves, shouting and losing our tempers to which we replied, “It sounds like the ride we took to get here.” They showed us the new technology involving hearing aids, which is amazing and the different styles and colors. Mom chose gray.

You would think, as much as this tiny object improves the lives of senior citizens, it would be covered under Medicare. It isn’t. So if you want to hear all the “background” noise coming from our politicians it will cost you. On another note: Hearing problems run in my family, as my wife will tell you. Still, I wish the folks I live with would stop mumbling and learn to pronounce words with a little more clarity. It might make all our lives a little more enjoyable.

Sonny Harmon is a professor emeritus at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.