Cardella: Hearing Aids

I just purchased my first set of hearing aids. Unlike glasses, hearing aids do not make a fashion statement. Celebrities never brag about the cool new hearing aids they just got. I think it’s because, for the most part, modern hearing aids are so small, they’re almost invisible. Another thing about them — let’s face it, they’re associated with being old.

Hearings aids should not be tiny. My wife Fran, bless her heart, loved to tease me by sticking her tongue into my ear. No more. Because one night a few weeks ago she inadvertently swallowed one of my hearing aids. She grew pale and stammered, “I think I just swallowed your hearing aid.” “At the price of hearing aids,” I replied, “can’t we use a less expensive form of foreplay?” Who says men are insensitive?

A man named Reese Hutchison knew the value of large hearing aids. In 1890, he created a plus-sized, cone-shaped implement. Advantages: You don’t have to worry about charging this device, no battery, no charger. No one has ever misplaced their ear horn. Within certain limitations, the cone-shaped hearing aid works just as well as the tiny one my wife accidentally devoured. If you don’t believe me, take a roll of toilet paper. Remove the toilet paper from the roll. Place the bare roll to your ear and ask someone to make like Adele singing TO MAKE YOU FEEL MY LOVE. Note — If you’re a male and have bad adenoids, you can choose the Bob Dylan version. Why remove the toilet paper from the roll? People tend to take you less seriously when they catch you singing songs through a roll of toilet paper. The sound quality of your voice will approximate the sound of your singing through an ear horn. You’ll be amazed how good you sound.

Warning — some very nearsighted aggressive women will still attempt to stick their tongue into your ear. Be careful, too. Hospitals are full of women whose tongues got stuck in their boyfriend’s ear horn. Nearsightedness can be a terrible thing. You may think you have an intense relationship that will last forever. However, being attached to your ear for the next 20 or 30 years can change her mind.

Hutchison overcame some tough obstacles while inventing the first hearing aid. He insisted on using electric current to amplify the sound. Unfortunately, the 100 people on whom he first tested his electric ear horn were electrocuted. But on the positive side, the electric ear horn made a great sound. Some people are convinced it marked the rise of Chick Corea.

My biggest problem — or I should say “our” biggest problem (if you include Fran’s swallowing my hearing aid in a fit of passion) – is we never know whether I remembered to put in my hearing aids. Sometimes I think I’m wearing my hearing aids, but I’m not. Poor Fran is screaming at me, but I’m not hearing any sound at all. Other times I think I remembered to put the hearing aids in, but I didn’t. On one such occasion, Fran blew out my ear drums. But I think you have to accept that it takes a few missteps to iron out the kinks. And as Fran said when I was being taken to the hospital, “nobody’s perfect!!!”

Wearing hearing aids during a pandemic can also present problems. Going out on a cold, winter night recently I almost caused a disaster. When we arrived at the restaurant, I removed my knit woolen cap — my N95 mask – and my fashionable black-rimmed glasses and one of my hearing aids popped out. I looked up, my mouth wide open in surprise and nearly swallowed the hearing aid. Luckily, I closed my mouth just in time to feel the hearing aid deflect off my lips and fall onto the carpeted floor. We spent a half-hour trying to find the device. (I’m proud to tell you that I found the floor instantly.)

Another thing: Hearing aids are not inexpensive. And, the more technical features, the higher the cost. Be aware that purchasing a hearing aid is not cheap. The more technical features, the higher the cost. The cheapest hearing aid closely resembles Hutchison’s ear horn. The model is called, IT’S BETTER THAN NOTHING (an opinion I do not share). I’m technically challenged so I went for the most advanced model. This thing does everything for you, including removing your ear wax. It turns out taking care of your ears can cost you an arm and a leg.

Despite the minor mishaps I’ve noted, my new hearing aids are terrific. I used to place the volume on our TV set at 30. Fran would politely ask me to lower the volume. With my hearing aids, I can hear with the volume set as low as 10. Now she’s forced to politely ask me to RAISE the volume.

I shouldn’t get so much pleasure now that the shoe is on the other foot. But who knew hearing aids could be so much fun?