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Ann Brenoff Headshot

Plunged Into Silence, Again

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A month ago, we went to the most expensive Bat Mitzvah celebration I ever attended. It was expensive -- for us -- because somewhere in the middle of a Grand Ballroom at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, my husband lost one of his hearing aids.

Vic has been wearing those ultra-lightweight completely invisible hearing aids in both ears for more than a year now. It's been a joy in every way imaginable. After about a five-year tussle over whether he would agree to get them, as soon as he put them in, we were again able to have conversations in normal voices. I could even whisper sweet-nothings into his ear and he could hear them. His hearing aids enabled him to again go to parties and talk with other guests; and we once again could enjoy the conversation that goes hand-in-hand with eating out in restaurants. Our kids no longer had to shout nouns at their father but could actually engage with him, ask his opinions, and not experience his frustration when he kept insisting they were mumbling.

Yes, the hearing aids gave us our lives as a couple and as a family back. They changed everything, instantly. It was like coming back to life after seeing the white light from the hospital bed. It was nothing short of a miracle and I can't think of any other medical intervention -- not a pill, not a shot -- that packs as powerful a punch as putting in a hearing aid for the first time.

And he just lost one of them.

Hearing aids, for those who aren't there yet, are expensive little buggers. Vic's set us back $4,000. And Medicare, the government medical program that provides care to those over age 65, doesn't cover them. Medicare also doesn't cover vision care, leading me to sincerely believe that our political leaders would prefer that we be deaf, blind -- and dumb, if they could arrange that as well.

There are more than 38 million Americans who need help hearing. And the older you get, the more likely it is that you will join them. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that 18 percent of American adults aged 45 to 64, 30 percent of adults 65 to 74, and 47 percent of adults 75 years old or older have a hearing loss problem.

As for us, we have been living a long lonely month while we wait for his replacement hearing aid to arrive. Fortunately, we took out insurance against loss so are looking at "just" a $200 deductible. And we are trying to remain patient while the paperwork is processed and the new hearing aid delivered.

But it's been a painful reminder of how we lived for five years before he agreed to wear hearing aids. We are again tip-toeing around the eggshells of his disability. Every room he enters is immediately assessed for ceiling height and acoustics; we left a party early because he was just hanging off by himself on the deck, unable to converse with anyone inside the noisy room. I again am texting him what I need at the market rather than shouting into his cell phone. Conversation has again become impossible and misunderstanding and frustration have already started to rule.

I felt foolish calling the hotel and asking if anyone found a virtually invisible hearing aid in their Grand Ballroom; but I called anyway. My daughter cleaned out her Dad's car with the hope of finding it there. We check with his doctor's office daily to see if the new one has yet come in and have an appointment on the books just in case it arrives early.

But reality is we are among the fortunate ones. It took five years to convince him he needed hearing aids and agree to wear them. Our current state of limbo will end in another week or so. Meanwhile, thousands of people who need hearing aids can't or won't get them and for them, my heart bleeds.

Earlier on Huff/Post50:

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