It’s frustrating to hear only part of what a public speaker is saying. Others laugh at his jokes, and some just fake a smile.
I was in the latter category 30 years ago. It really helped to put my hand behind my ear to capture more sound, but I was too embarrassed to do that. Instead, I retired from teaching and learned to make pottery. One day I was making a special shape in clay for a doctor who ordered the piece. Many times that morning I said, "I beg your pardon, but I didn’t hear what you said." Finally I confessed my deafness to this stranger. "I have an appointment on Tuesday to get a hearing aid." What a relief it was to admit that.
As the doctor was leaving my workshop, he stopped and said, "Mrs. Gerard, be very careful in selecting that hearing aid. Talk with friends who use aids, compare brands and prices. It’s best to choose the brand some friend has used for many years - and recommends." I remembered his words.
I began with a medical evaluation of my hearing problem and then called Priscilla, my potter friend in Virginia. She has worn two aids since she was in grade school. She suggested that I come to Virginia for a visit and to help in her pottery studio and we could talk about hearing aids. She said, "My two new ones will be ready next week, and I’m sure my dealer and I can give you some helpful hints."
Priscilla loaned me one of her hearing aids, which fit well enough for me to know I must buy one soon. She warned me to turn it off all the way each night. Her poodle had climbed to the top of a tall dresser and totally destroyed an aid that he heard squealing. Priscilla’s dealer explained tiny hearing aids, large ones that fit behind the ear and regular ones such as Priscilla’s.
He said, "Some women like the smaller ones because their hair hides them, but such vanity is costly. The smaller aids use tiny batteries which last about half as long as the others. These small aids fit deeper into the ear, and the sound quality is slightly diminished as it travels down to the tiny microphone."
This was in 1972 and might not be true today.
I saw three brands and asked, "These three aids look alike, but one costs $100 more than the others; is it that much better?"
He said only, "One company advertises widely."
I recognize my responsibility to do everything possible to hear well. I’ve learned to sit near the person in charge of a group meeting. In a room with a soundproofed ceiling, I watch the speaker’s face, conscious of the fact that my "lip-reading" began before I had hearing aids. In some men, facial hair hinders the muscles underneath and obstructs my viewing of mouth and lips. In a home, I avoid overstuffed chairs, particularly wing chairs because part of the sound is absorbed into the upholstery.
To hear well, I must stop what I’m doing, look at the speaker’s face and listen attentively.
And for those who speak softly to emphasize the important part of a message, I must add one more thing: I must forgive.
Now, if I can just be sure to have one of these miracle devices in each ear at all times, even when I go out, I’ll hear quite well. Today, I use two.