Grandpa Lynch, a retired Railroad
Engineer, had big clunky hearing aids. Grandma Lynch needed a pair,
though her family said she could hear perfectly well when she wanted
to. There was definitely hearing loss on my mother’s side, but her
parents couldn’t have afforded hearing aids if they’d wanted
them, which they didn’t any more than Grandma Lynch did.
Shame was attached to the very idea of
needing such devices. Do people reject hearing aids out of pride?
Vanity? Was it the stigma of disability? Maybe back then the
new-fangled things weren’t very effective. Probably they were
I was excited when I got my hearing
aids last month. I mean, thrilled, looking forward to, happily
anticipating, tickled pink. For years I’d been having trouble
distinguishing between consonants like b, t, v, d. I was never
certain what a speaker said so it was difficult to respond. Of
course, my native shyness played into those feelings, but that’s a
whole other story.
This year, I looked forward to the
lesbian Golden Crown Literary Conference (GCLS) because I’d be able
to hear actual words spoken in panels, readings, speeches, and noisy
restaurants. I’d hear words spoken on the dance floor. Maybe I’d
reply sensibly to readers and other writers.
Shame? Heck, no. I got good at spotting
the now near-invisible gadgets and honed in on folks in my
neighborhood to get the scoop on brands, deals and comfort. They were
not always chatty – that lingering shame. Is it shame of getting
old? Bring it on, Mother Nature. If I don’t fight aging, I have
more energy to work with it.
There are pitfalls, mainly monetary. My
sweetheart and I like to support local businesses, so we went down
the street to a Doctor of Audiology. She confirmed that I was a
candidate for hearing aids. They were terribly expensive, though, so
I dithered. Neighbors kept telling me to go to Costco, which they
said was cheaper, but when you live on Social Security and what your
wits as a gay writer can bring in, even Costco products can break the
bank. I sat on the information for another eighteen months.
Until… Conversations with my
sweetheart became peppered with the word “what?” It was driving
us both nuts. As it happens, we’re from New York and New Jersey,
which predisposes us to certain unintelligible quirks of speech.
Understanding each other can be trying. Add low hearing and you have
a formula for a cranky couple.
It was off to Dr. Ear again. The tech
gave me a demo set of aids to wear around for a week. I almost cried
when it was time to return them. The cost for a pair of my own? Six
grand. We could plump up the GCLS scholarship fund with that much
cash. Pay a few years of our taxes. Keep the animal shelter in food
for a while. Help get an intelligent politician elected to office.
But… I never used the word “what”
that whole week. How do you put a price on a happy lesbian household?
Plus, the conference was coming up. We took a chunk of our life
savings, got me fitted, and placed the order.
And then, out of nowhere, my
sweetheart’s job was eliminated. We were stunned. She’s so good
at anything she does, the employer should’ve created a new job for
her, never mind Scrooging away the one she had.
We high-tailed it to Dr. Ear’s office
and canceled our order. But we weren’t about to relinquish the
blessed tranquility afforded our marriage by these tiny doodads. My
sweetheart plunged into umpteen hours of researching every fact known
to woman about hearing gizmos. Turns out what we’d been told –
that Costco sells instruments with older technology – was no longer
The nearest Costco is worth the
three-hour roundtrip drive. Bottom line, with the already more
palatable Costco prices and benefits from signing up for executive
membership and Costco’s credit card, we saved four thousand dollars
on the same exact same contraption. Our warranty is now longer and
more comprehensive and we can still afford our cat’s veterinary
When I first put in the hearing aids, I
felt a giant exhalation of tension. Though I knew of my relatively
modest hearing loss, I was unaware what a strain it put not just on
my marriage and public life, but on my mind and body.
The New York Times (Sep 25, 2017):
“When the brain struggles to make sense of the world it may be less
able to perform other important tasks.” Research on this continues,
linking hearing (and vision) loss to cognitive decline.
Now I seldom ask “What?” and even
though GCLS was held at a casino hotel where music boomed and blared
unbearably almost everywhere, I don’t think I missed one beautiful
[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author
of over 13 books. Her latest, Rainbow Gap, is available at
Strokes Books. You can reach Lynch at LeeLynch@ontopmag.com]
Copyright 2018 Lee Lynch.