A Vast Morsel

In yesterday’s post, I began with a variation on a familiar old joke. Here’s a similar joke that has currency for me this week.

Three hard of hearing dudes are standing on a street corner.
First hard of hearing dude says, “Brrrrr, it’s windy!”
Second one says, “No … it’s Thursday.”
Third one says, “Me too, let’s go get a drink.”


One of the important purposes for my visit with my mom was to assist her in purchasing hearing aids. For five years or more, she has suffered hearing loss (in addition to her diminished sight).

Family and friends got into the habit of asking “What did you say?” and eventually, Mom went to a hearing aid vendor and purchased a single hearing device. As costly as the device was, I’m not convinced it enhanced her ability to hear. For one thing, it didn’t have a volume control.

Over the last couple months, she began to understand the device she owned was useless and needed to be replaced. Given the expected cost of such devices, I wanted to help her choose (plus be sure she didn’t get fleeced). I took a couple days to research hearing devices and discover what options were available to her. I also queried others I knew who owned and wore hearing aids.

I’d hoped also to consult resources I’ve used before making other high-dollar purchases. Though Consumer Reports offers a helpful guide for understanding some of the basics related to hearing aids, the magazine doesn’t evaluate specific models as they do with appliances or home and garden tools, etc. I was disappointed they didn’t furnish their usual product evaluations. A simple Google search of hearing aid scams made me wish I could benefit from CR’s normally solid buying suggestions.

There are half a dozen storefront hearing aid vendors within a five-mile radius of my mom’s home. Before I made the trip, I phoned several of them to ask questions. I wanted to understand what kind of products they offered, see if their products included the features my mom most wanted, and request a ball-park cost for said products. Once I arrived in town, my mom and I checked out a few of these vendors … including the one where she’d purchased her previous device.

Our experience was not encouraging. Almost all the storefront vendors offered a “free” hearing test, but they were unwilling to (1) provide a copy of the hearing test or (2) give an estimated cost of hearing devices until the “specialist” had completed a lengthy evaluation.

Now don’t get me wrong. I understand the need for a hearing test. I also understand the necessity of having a trained technician perform this test. But I’m wary when businesses refuse to honestly lay out their prices so an individual knows (before sitting down) what the overall cost might be. I’m also wary when businesses usher an individual (often an elderly individual) into a room for this hearing test and act as though the individual isn’t going to experience duress or uneasy obligation to purchase whatever product the “specialist” deems appropriate. Whatever happened to shopping around and being an informed consumer?

ear trumpet
This could’ve been us!

This story has a happy ending (so far) and I tend to think it will continue to be. We connected with a super technician at the local Sam’s Club and he spent three hours evaluating my mom and fitting her with devices that I’m confident she will be using, devices that have successfully transformed her attitude toward hearing aids in general.

Today, she rejoiced in the things she’s now hearing, things she’d forgotten it was possible to hear:  turning on the light switch, the clip-clop of her sandaled feet as she walks across a tiled floor, the tick-tock of the clock on the wall, the splatter of raindrops against a window pane. These are sounds I’ve taken for granted. These are sounds I’ve assumed she still heard.

Even just the tap-tap-tapping of my fingertips on the laptop keyboard is a sound she hasn’t heard in years. The gentle whirring of a metal fan now provides a background whoosh she had forgotten! When these sounds “go away” for someone who has experienced hearing loss, it’s a void you might not even notice!

The technician who worked with my mom told her about an elderly married couple who’d come in seeking hearing aids for the husband. After he was fitted, he walked through the club with her by his side, testing what improvement he noticed. Finally, he sat down near the front door and began to weep. His wife asked why he was crying. He responded that he had forgotten how sweet it was to hear her voice. Having the sound of his wife’s voice renewed to him was a gift he’d never imagined he could have back.

I’m reminded of an Emily Dickinson letter where she wrote this poetic phrase:  Friday, I tasted life. It was a vast morsel. One might argue comparing a circus with restored hearing is slightly incongruous. I think not. Both are beautiful gifts. We should enjoy them ‑ revel in their extraordinariness ‑ as long as we’re able.