Bruce Robert Coffin here with my monthly Murder Books blog. Great to visit with all of you again.
Recently I posted a short comment on social media about my newly acquired hearing aids. Due to an overwhelming response to the post I decided to dedicate this blog to the subject.
I had known for some time that my hearing was failing me. The causes are many. Age. Power equipment. Rock concerts. My years as a police officer, which constantly exposed me to things like gunfire, sirens, supervisors barking orders, gunfire, and more sirens. It’s safe to say that I’ve been exposed to more than my share of loud noises.
The first signs that something was amiss was tinnitus. You know, the annoying ringing in your ears that shows up after attending a loud concert. Usually it departs after several days. But this ringing was different. I noticed that it would come and go for no apparent reason. Then one day, years ago, the ringing began in both ears and never stopped.
The problem with tinnitus is twofold. Yes, as we’ve already established, it’s annoying. But the more serious problem is that its high pitched frequency tends to cancel out anything within the same range. The microwave timer. The oven beeping to alert me when something is done cooking. The open door alarm on the refrigerator. Birdsong. Spring peepers. Dialogue in movies and television. And it distorts music. I have always been a fan of Tony Bennett, but as my hearing worsened his high notes actually caused me discomfort. The same was true of Sting.
Finally, at the urging of one of my former partners in crime, with a bit of help from my better half, I went to have my hearing checked. The good news was that my low range hearing is perfect. Anything with a lot of bass is great. The not so good news was that my ability to hear anything in the high end was nearly nonexistent. Perhaps the most telling part of the testing was the verbal comprehension test. The test was simple. The audiologist spoke dozens of words to me, one at a time, and all I had to do was repeat the word back. I sailed right through the test, repeating every word I heard. Or so I thought. It turns out that I misinterpreted ten percent of the words he had spoken. The words I believed I was hearing were not the words he was speaking. Ten percent may not seem like much, but in conversation it can make all the difference. How many of you have been engaged in conversation only to receive a funny look from the other person following your response?
There were many reasons I delayed in seeking help. Cost. Vanity. Denial. But the biggest reason of all was not realizing how much I was actually missing. The loss of one’s hearing is gradual. It takes place over the course of years. But the restoration of hearing through hearing aids is immediate. From the first moment I put them on everything changed. Sounds that had grown dull were sharp and clear, even something as slight as a creaking floorboard. Conversation was easy and fun, no longer requiring so much concentration that it became exhausting. Hearing the highs in your own voice is strange after having been without them for so long. Ever had anyone ask you why you’re speaking so loud?
But perhaps the coolest thing happened the other night when I returned home after dark. The night was warm, or a least relatively speaking for April in Maine, and as I stepped from the truck I heard a noise I had not heard in years. Peepers! Spring peepers. A joyful chorus of them singing from the nearby woods. For the next several minutes I sat outside in the dark grinning as I enjoyed one of the most magical sounds of spring. A sound that I thought I might never hear again.
Don’t put it off like I did. Your life is waiting.