This word became too frequently uttered in my house over the last year, as I tried to decipher Paul’s mumbling from the other room.  Last summer I strained to hear the frogs he swore were just down the hill from us, and then, this winter the owls started hooting from under their wing. Finally, I tucked my pride under my own wing and went to get a hearing test.

Sure enough, my left ear was in the start of “severe hearing loss” range, and the right not much better. You wouldn’t have known it. But I had to admit that my body is getting that much closer to being composted! The same week I learned about my hearing loss I was told that my eyes had deteriorated too.

Eyewear is now a fashion statement. But hearing aids? Now that’s a different story.

I read the brochure for Starkey sound technology while waiting for my hearing test. A study from John’s Hopkins reported some alarming findings:

•  Older Adults with impaired hearing my have a shorter lifespan.
•  30-40% of people with hearing loss experience a decline in cognitive abilities.
•  Adults with hearing loss that goes untreated are more likely to report depression, anxiety, and paranoia than adults who wear hearing aids.
•  Adults with untreated hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia, and up to five times greater with severe loss.
•  There is also an association with high blood pressure and falling.

In short, don’t put off getting hearing aids if you think you are having trouble understanding conversations in a crowd, or deciphering the words of a loved one, (unless it is convenient not to!), or hearing the raucous serenade of spring birds and peepers.

My prediction is that within the next twenty years hearing aids will become as fashionable as eyewear.  Already young people, (myself included before I got my aids), are wearing what look like cigarettes in their ears. Perhaps one day our hearing aids will have colorful, twirly things hanging from the ear pieces, or even flowers sprouting up from either side of our heads!

What? You say! Well, join the crowd. Since getting my aids, I find more and more people who need them. It’s just like when I was pregnant (a very long time ago!) and noticed how many other people were in the same condition. Similarities are what bring us together.

I can’t wait to hear what you say!

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27 Responses to What?

  1. Iain says:

    I consider myself hearing enabled, thanks to technology.

    I can change my hearing aids with my iPhone. I can change the microphone for a restaurant or theatre. Directions for google map come to me through hearing aids.

    Technology changed my life and returned the ability to hear my friends, nature, and music.

    • Dear Iain, I can imagine that your hearing aids put you “back in the game” of communication. How lucky we are to be living at this time of advancing technology! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Steven Locke says:

    Eileen, you have captured what I went through four years ago. It was quite depressing, and the hearing aids are just that – aids, not solutions. They only partially help and are not all that effective in social situations with many voices such as restaurants or parties. I’m hoping that the new federal legislation that opens up access to hearing aids w/o a requirement of a Rx will lead to intense competition among consumer electronics companies and that their pension for innovation will produce less expensive, more effective amplification. I’m convinced that AI and further miniaturization will vastly improve the ability to discriminate sound sources, and even include real time language translators as well. I’m not so concerned about the appearance but mostly focused on the need to restore my hearing, or even improve it, like night vision glasses. At least cataract surgery gives you better vision.
    Anyway, consider this: hearing aids are way better than knee replacements.

    The future is coming: stem cells that regrow the lost cochlear hair cells and restore your hearing, and the ability to regrow cartilage in arthritic joints, or repair damaged organs.

    I have to say that at age 72, despite multiple health problems, each decade has been better than the last. I hope I can still say that in my 80’s.

    • I hope you can say that in your 80’s too Steve! We are lucky to be living at a time of such fast advances in technology. Sorry your hearing aids have not been all you hoped for. I hope you don’t have to have too many more replacements! You always seemed good the way you are to me!

  3. Kerry Crofton says:

    Eileen, Once again you will help a lot of people by sharing your story and this important reminder about hearing problems and solutions.

    I am reluctant to be a bearer of bad news but there is growing scientific evidence of harm with the radiation from Bluetooth, cell phones and wireless technology.

    As you may remember, this is my area of research. Not an easy message for a public health educator to deliver.

    The new ‘smart’ hearing aids may help a lot of people. Others may experience unfortunate side effects, including potential damage to the eyes, as eye tissue is vulnerable to the microwave radiation.

    Along with the natural process of aging, wireless radiation exposure can be a factor in diminishing eye health.

    Ironically, it can also be a factor in tinnitus – ringing of the ears.

    Yes, the levels involved are low, but still within the range that has been shown to be harmful.

    Lots of research on this if you want to know more.

    So may be good to consider non-wireless hearing aids and older and perhaps safer technology.

    Not an easy message to hear but offering in case it helps someone.

    love to all,


    • Hi Kerry. Thanks for letting me know about the bluetooth radiation. I don’t have the bluetooth on most of the time but it is a useful tool at times. I guess everything has its down side. I will use it less after reading your findings. Actually, i have had much less tinnitus since using my hearing aids! I guess we are each impacted differently. Thanks for writing.

      • Dr Kerry Crofton says:

        Thanks, Eileen for your openness. This is not an easy message.

        Adverse effects on the heart and brain, and on our sleep, have been reported from wireless radiation (cell phones, digital cordless phones, Bluetooth/WiFi, Smart Meters etc.) but hearing effects have not been well studied. This animal study shows some damage to hearing.

        As more becomes known there may be a re-think of using Bluetooth/WiFi in hearing technology and
        research into safer tech solutions.

        There might also be a suggestion if one is using wireless hearing aids to limit other exposures?

        Internet connections: wired instead of wireless;

        phones: landlines more often than mobiles, and corded landlines instead of cordless.

        Not sure if this link works here?


        thanks for listening …

  4. Peggy Hart says:

    And I’m in the same boat- my last hearing test confirmed that it wasn’t all due to running looms for the last 30 years….

    • How do they know that your hearing loss isn’t related to those power looms? In any case, I guess it doesn’t matter. Are you getting hearing aids too? Let me know how they work!

  5. Kate says:

    You are hardly composting! Thanks for this post. Well done all around!

  6. Susan Price says:

    I’m so glad you wrote this. I’ve copied it to give to my husband who is asking WHAT? more and more. I didn’t know quite how to broach this sensitive subject, so I’ll let you do it through your candid story.

  7. Elaine Naddaff says:

    You must not jump to the worst fears.There are times when a second medical opinion is in order—a good approach. A few dear people in my life are/have grappled with major hearing issues. Be patient with yourself. use your common sense and prioritize. All will work for the best…

  8. Richard Trenner says:

    Dear Eileen,

    Thank you for writing candidly about an important medical condition—hearing loss—and what you’ve been doing to treat it. But I’m dismayed to “hear” that many other medical problems are associated with hearing loss…. I had serious hearing loss years ago—triggered when I ruptured my right eardrum by diving into a pool and going too deep. (I had a sinus infection at the time.) I saw otolaryngologists in Princeton, New York, and even Basel, Switzerland. None of them got it right until an academic clinician at the University of Pennsylvania made the right diagnosis and performed successful surgery. The moral of the story: Keep looking until you find a top doctor in the relevant speciality.

    One other quick story: A friend of mine, exactly my (advanced!) age, has suffered very bad hearing loss. The cause? Practically every winter of his life, he’s spent a month or more shooting in South Carolina, but he has not always used proper ear protection. And nowadays a lot of young people are putting their hearing at risk by listening perpetually to loud music through headphones or earbuds.

    Firing shotguns or listening to loud music is rather like spending as much time at possible floating in or on the water when we were kids. We thought we were getting “healthy tans”: a dangerous oxymoron. (Well, my dermatologist and I are today great fiends.)

    “Now see here,” as my mother liked to say—I’m sure that, as your father’s daughter and your paternal great-grandfather’s great-granddaughter, you are VERY FAR from your “sell-by” date. And, at least for many of us, one good thing about getting older is that the less time we have, the more we’re grateful for the time we have. As my mother also liked to say, “See here, Richard, for everyone who’s ever lived, life is one big countdown. So love every minute you possibly can.”

    Please keep on writing, Eileen!


    • Dear Richard, I’m sure you’re right about some of the causes of hearing loss. In my case, it’s probably congenital. My father’s aunt Elsie carried around a large megaphone! So glad I don’t have to do that! Thanks for your wisdom about being more grateful as we age for every day and the small things that make us smile. I totally agree with you. All the best, Eileen

  9. Stephen P. Johnson says:

    Great contribution to the conversation around aging, Eileen. As my contemporary I can fairly assume that like me, you lost some hearing from listening to bands at Middlebury and in your Penn visits that were ALL TOO LOUD. Although we didn’t think so at the time 🙂 Steve

    • Actually I have always been very sensitive to loud music and have avoided it at all costs! So I don’t think it’s so much that as a congenital issue, or perhaps (since my phone ear was the worst) from having phones up to my ear for too long. Briefer conversations might have served me better!

  10. Darrel Huenergardt says:

    Interesting! However, if glasses are a fashion statement why do so many people wear contacts? I’m waiting for hearing aids that are the equivalent of contacts, that really work, even in large noisy crowds, and no one has a clue you use them. That you do not have to remove them to swim or shower. That you do not have to adjust depending on the situation. Oh, well, maybe hearing aid technology lags behind sight technology because young inventors may have vision deficiencies, but are not likely to have hearing deficiencies. But I am thankful that someone has developed hearing aid technology so I don’t have to wear a speaker in my shirt pocket with a wire dangling to my ear or carry around a megaphone like was portrayed in old silent movies. What ever happened to the glasses that had hearing aids built into the temple pieces?!

  11. louisegil5 says:

    aah Eileen! I am about to get my ears tested—friends and family sayjthat I say “What” too much!! I love your usual wisdom and especially want to thank you for this post. Thank you Kerry Crofton for your sage advise with the caution re bluetooth hearing technology (who would have known). Let us know how you progress. You are an inspiration to all of us!

  12. Iman Tonja Ali says:

    Hi Eileen,
    Thank you for again reminding us to be mindful. I’m also getting glasses this week! May check my ears while I’m at it.(smile)

    Also listening + meditating with Dr Joe Dispenza on uploading new genes for 20/20 vision, etc. etc.! SAY WHAT? LOL. It is all so exciting to know that a clear intention (coherent brain) married to an elevated emotion (coherent heart) alters realities even DNA!

    Excited to witness WHAT happens next!

  13. Phyll says:

    Touching post—we all can relate as we grow and see changes in our bodies and physiology. More than anything, your post reminds me of my precious Mom. She had a hearing loss all my life and muddled through PTA meetings, girl scouts, chatting with my friends and more. Finally, in her 60’s, she got a hearing aid. She said it helped but amplified ambient or background noise, too. So, for noisy chatter, clinking dishes at restaurants or other situations, she’d turn her hearing aid down.

    Her hearing loss helped me (and my sisters) learn to speak clearly, maintain eye contact with whoever we were speaking with, be strong in our volume (but not shout) and really “connect.” It was all for the good. God works in mysterious ways.

    Tomorrow is my birthday, and I’m thinking about my Mom more than ever today. Your blog brought memories of my Mom and her hearing loss to mind. This will be the first birthday without my dear, sweet, Mamala. She was my angel and guiding light. My most ardent cheerleader and closest friend. I miss her more than ever. Thank you for sharing your story in your beautiful blog. It touched my heart.

    Sounds of spring are all around. . . listen. . .listen. . .

    As always, Phyll

    • Dear Phyll, Happy Birthday! Those words are easy to say but probably not easy to feel as this is your first without your mom. I’m sure it will be a bittersweet day, but in some ways you can feel closer than ever to her because your birthday is proof of her love and life! Do something truly nurturing for yourself. Much love, Eileen

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