Friday, July 28, 2017


Tuesday, July 25, was a big day. It was the day I purchased hearing aids.

There’s no other way to say it. “Hearing aids.” When I first obtained eye glasses; reading glasses, actually, that’s what we called them. Just reading glasses. With a chuckle perhaps, we called them ‘spectacles’.

But never “seeing aids.” Yes, they helped us to see better. To read with less strain. But even the kids whose lenses were as thick as the bottom of a bottle of coca cola weren’t blind. They could see without help.

What is it then, with hearing aids? Why aren’t they called ‘ear plugs’? That’s what they are. Little plugs that you put in your ears. Why “hearing aids”?

I suspect it is part of what George Carlin mocked as the sissy-fying of the American language. He did a marvelously funny routine in which he traced the phrases used to describe a disability common to war veterans. In 1918 it was “shell shock.” In 1945, they said “battle fatigue.” Now the veterans of Middle Eastern conflict are said to endure “post traumatic distress syndrome.”

I am sure the geniuses on Madison Avenue figured out that a $5,000 price tag would be more palatable for ‘hearing aids’ than for ‘ear plugs.’

But even with the sissified description, the devices have an ominous connotation. The fact is that most hearing loss is related to old age. Even little kids wear eyeglasses. Ear plugs are the badges of senility.

The doctor insisted that Polly come with me when I went to be examined. I’m sure her experience is that wives are the first and foremost victims of a man’s hearing loss.

My excuse was always chauvinistic. I would always insist that I could hear her, but that I just wasn’t listening. That line never played very well.

Anyway, now I have hearing aids. Polly insists that I wear them all day, every day. The first thing that struck me coming out of the doctor’s office is that there is no such thing as silence. Not real, dead, complete, absolute silence. The rustle of human, animal and vegetable life always plays in the background.

Even your own respiration makes an audible sound.

The audiologist explained the connection between the ear and the brain. In effect, the brain is always listening and always trying to make sense out of the noise we hear.

I’m not sure my brain can handle a whole lot more input. I may have to augment the hearing aids with old fashioned ear plugs to ward off the noisy world out there.

In any case, I am not sure whether the hearing aids will solve all the challenges of domestic communication. In addition to hearing, there are the  related problems of listening, noticing, and remembering, all of which are related to the broad syndrome called ‘caring.’

For example, I wouldn’t know a daffodil from a geranium. Or whether either one may or may not be growing outside my window.

Truth is, I don’t care. Admittedly, I have always admired and envied people who have inexhaustible data-base type brains that receive, assemble and retrieve information. I have known lawyers who remember every word on every page of a 97 page deposition.

And my beloved dentist who I used to call a “storehouse of useless information.”

In my view, there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom; between being smart and being wise.

In the last analysis, the idea is to care enough about those we love to pay attention to what they say.

So far as I know, the only place where you can acquire a “caring aid” is at church on Sunday.


  1. You can also acquire a "caring aid" from spouse and family, if you have been married many, many years.

  2. Always a pleasure to read your posts, Tom.