Real men don’t have “hearing loss.” Their spouses just mumble as they get older. It was true for my grandfather and father, and it’s true for me. My wife keeps telling me to go to Costco and get my hearing checked. I explain that Costco is for red meat and toilet paper.
I hear perfectly well, despite 55 years waving a chainsaw around, three years of concert-sound reinforcement for rock bands, and another ten years in a recording studio control room when I was young. If people just spoke clearly, hearing loss wouldn’t be such a relentless and annoying topic of conversation.
For example, my wife asks, “How ‘bout a little snuggle?” to which I answer, “Sure, if the snow blower starts.” Or, “You want fish for supper?” to which I answer, “She’s nice, but I’m sick of her gossip.”
That’s how I learned Latin. She told me my non-sequiturs were proof of my hearing loss. Too proud to ask what a non-sequitur was, I looked it up and found it means “a response that doesn’t follow from the question.”
Now firmly on the defensive, I relaunch my tirade against mumblers, explaining that all conversations would be easier if people just spoke clearly. “We’ve become a nation of mutterers,” I generalize, so as not to make it personal.
“You need hearing aids,” she yells at me and walks away.
In truth, I’d begun to worry. Sitting in a crowded restaurant, I can’t hear the person sitting across from me, but hear every inane word coming from a wine-soused woman at the far corner table, carrying on about her poodle’s silly hairdo. At meetings, I ask people to speak up repeatedly, though others seem to hear them okay. So, I sneak off to get tested.
A young woman settles me into a foam-lined closet and fits me with headphones. “Raise your hand when you hear a tone,” she says, closing me into the hermetically sealed chamber. “This’ll be easy,” I think, “Finally put an end to this “hearing loss” nonsense.” After a while, I ask when she’s going to start the test.
“It’s over,” she says, popping into the room. “You have serious hearing loss.”
“Serious?” I ask, not sure I heard her. “Not deaf, am I?”
“It’s a relative term,” she responds. “Let’s try some hearing aids on you and see what happens.”
Suspicious, I ask, “How much they gonna cost?” having seen ads for them costing several hundred dollars.
“They’re normally $4800, but we discount them and offer low-interest financing.”
I look around in a panic, convinced my mind’s failing along with my hearing and I’ve wandered by mistake into a car dealership.
“$4800?” I gasp, forgetting a half-century’s elapsed inflation.
Judging me a geezer, she chirps, “Medicare may cover some. You can finance the rest over five years – if you live that long,” she thinks, but is too polite to say.
I skulk home with my new earrings, which cost more than my first seven cars, a year’s worth of batteries too small to see, and a sheaf of financing documents signed under duress.
The sound of my car starting sounds like a Euclid diesel dump truck firing up on all six cylinders. Passing cars sound like I’m the target of a drone strike. I hear birds chirping as I enter the house. My patient wife congratulates me on my new hearing aids.
“Don’t have ta yell at me,” I sulk. “I wasn’t yelling,” she answers with a smile.