The New Hearing Aids and Church

This morning was almost too much for me. I went to church, and as is my custom, went and sang with the choir. I kicked myself for not spending some time with our director at the piano first to get my bearings to make sure that I actually could sing with these hearing aids.  As church started and we began singing, I felt like I was on the high wire without a net.

I was astounded at how crisp the syllables in the words we sang sounded. It also seemed easier for me to form them. That made me happy. I was still uneasy, though. There were a couple of songs that we did that I hadn’t checked out what verses we were going to sing from them, which normally would have been a disaster because I usually would be lost until the verse ended. This time I heard well enough to be able to instantly find the verses I needed to find, and this astounded me. I’m sure I made some mistakes in singing some of the notes because everything sounded different. I wish I’d been more prepared.

I understood things that I normally would have missed, and I got misty eyed. The more we sang, the more astounded I was in how everyone around me sounded, and the clear sounds of all the instruments.

Even the piano, which has a string that drives our director crazy sounded better. I marveled at its resonance.

Eventually I lost my self control, and got weepy. My choir members were happy for me. Chris, who was sitting next to me was very comforting, and put her arm around me.

My thoughts jumped ahead to the fall when our new choir season starts and we begin practicing again.

And then my meltdown began. I am my own worst enemy, and I reminded myself that these hearing aids have got to go back. I hit tilt, so to speak. When I got home, I realized something. These new discoveries are wearing me out. They’re wearing me out because all of this is temporary, and the more I wear them, the more things that I discover that I never knew about before. My husband is convinced that somehow I will eventually get these things. I’m not so sure.  The facts as I know them are that our insurance company has stopped buying hearing aids every three years like they used to, although they don’t tell you this. They just deny your request. The fact that they bought them at all is a tremendous blessing.  I’ve done well with my current hearing aids. They revolutionized my life. I function well with them.  I can hear 62 % of what most people hear.  I’ve been happy with that. Being able to hear even better than that has blown my mind.  But now I want to give these new ones that I have on trial back. Knowing that these are not mine…nor do I particularly want this set anyway, since they have the word “DEMO” stamped on each of them, and that what I have with them is not going to last is getting too painful.  Maybe I want an excuse to wallow in my own misery and feel bad. I don’t know. As much as I want to give them back tomorrow, I’m not. I’m going to hang onto them until the day I have to give them back.  I’m going to try my best to deal with the loss with dignity, be thankful for what I have, and carry on with my life as usual.  Do I think I’ll succeed? I don’t know. Time will tell.



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The new hearing aids at the movies

Tuesday was an ultimate test for me. It was one of the things that I wanted to do to help me judge the merits of these hearing aids that I am testing. They passed with flying colors. We went to a theater and watched a movie. I heard everything. I didn’t emerge exhausted from trying to figure out the plot line or the names of the characters. In college, a friend, Steve and I would go to the movies together. Every so often, she would gently touch my arm and ask me in sign language: “What’s going on?” This was my cue to touch Steve and ask him the same question. So, Steve would tell me, and I would duly pass the information on to her. It was normal. This was what we did, unless we went to captioned movies at the university. We didn’t think anything of it. It was just what we did.

After they started captioning TV and selling vhs and later dvd’s with captioning, it was easier for me to wait for movies to come out on video so I could understand them. Three years ago I got hearing aids that brought my hearing ability up to 62 %. This means that I can understand much of what’s going on in a movie and makes it worth it to me to go to a theater.  So naturally, it was understandable that I wanted to test out these new hearing aids that I am testing out by a trip to the movies. I enjoyed the movie thoroughly. I held myself together until we left our seats. Then I burst into tears. We went to a restaurant that we frequent and it took the next hour and a half to regain my composure because I was so overwhelmed.

It was an absolute joy to be able to understand everything. When Star Wars ran the first time, I went with my friends. I left with absolutely no understanding of the plot line or the names of the characters. I just simply didn’t have enough hearing. While I knew that everyone else could understand what was going on, I never had been able to do so. I often say that you can’t miss what you’ve never had.

Now I’m hearing things I have never been able to hear. Often I’m reduced to tears at the wonder of it all. I ‘m also reduced to tears because it is not going to last. These hearing aids are not mine and they go back on the 20th of July. I’ll go back to wearing my three year old hearing aids, and there will be things that I will no longer hear. But now I’ll know, and I’ll miss them. I don’t have the money to buy these new ones and the insurance company has clamped down on buying them, unless they break. When Steve retires, I won’t have access to new ones at all.  I’ll need to start making money to save up to buy new ones because technology changes so quick that three year old hearing aids become obsolete technology wise. So many people don’t wear hearing aids at all because it’s just too costly to replace them, and the disappointment is too much. That grieves me. I wish I could buy the top of the line hearing aids for me and for other people who push the boundaries of what they should be capable of like me. I know of at least one other person I wish could have these things that I’m trying out. But I can’t buy them for either of us.

The people that would benefit the most from the most high tech hearing aids can’t afford them, and those that can afford them often just leave them in a drawer.

I had mixed feelings about trying out these new hearing aids because I knew that they would be a huge improvement. I didn’t want to try them because I honestly didn’t want to know what I was missing because I knew that I wouldn’t keep them. I got talked into trying them and I am both thrilled and sad.

I’m thrilled because it’s exciting to hear things I’ve never heard. I’m sad because it won’t last.

I’ve heard the impossible, and I can’t go back. The memory will always be with me.

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Hearing aids day four

These things are water resistant, which is a good thing, since it has been humid here and I’ve been pouring down the sweat. Last week one of my regular hearing aids took exception to the moisture and shut down during a wedding. So it’s been nice to be borrowing a pair that are not going to shut down.

This may not be exciting to you, but today I heard the brakes on a  bus as it stopped, and I heard my cousin’s cat meow from across the room.

A dubious blessing was being able to tell that they were playing music in the bookstore we went in to after dinner. It was some awful wailing crap that got on my nerves. It was completely lost on my husband and cousin Becki, because THEY tuned it out! I however, heard it. I know that they play music in this bookstore chain. I’ve never heard any of it until now.  Until tomorrow, if I have anything interesting to write,


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Hearing aids, day Three

Today we walked down the Mall here in Washington, DC, and it is extremely humid. After a few blocks I got a severe cramp in a muscle in my left leg, and it started tightening up and hurting. I have quite a threshold for pain, and when we found a bench to sit down on, Steve was startled to feel just how tight the muscle felt under his hand. So we had to get a taxi. I wasn’t happy about needing the taxi, since I actually can and have walked reasonably long distances, but there was no point in trying to walk back with my leg hurting this much in humidity as bad as today is. Steve hailed a cab, which immediately started towards where I was limping from. The cab driver was Asian, with a very thick accent. The three of us talked about yesterdays’ surprising news, Michael Jackson’s death. The conversation was an in depth analysis of music, dance moves, and Michael Jackson’s personal life, with a foray into the life of Elvis Presley. Normally the accent would have tripped me up, and I could have never followed the conversation without seeing the cab drivers’ lips. It was a great, engaging conversation with a cabbie who brought up interesting points…but best of all, I heard every single word of it! We rested this afternoon, which meant that the hearing aids came out. We met some dear friends for dinner and they treated us to a wonderful meal. The restaurant was noisy, and I was concerned. My current hearing aids have a restaurant setting to block out background noise, but I don’t know much about how these demos work. I shouldn’t have worried. Not only did I hear our friends just fine, but I understood the waiter, as well. One thing that stands out to me is that people’s voices have more resonance. I like that. One of the voices that goes off on this laptop that I am using is John Lithgow as Dick Solomon saying :“ I find you pompous, judgmental and completely self absorbed. Will you be my friend?” I just love the resonance his voice when he says this sentence. I’m thrilled with the discoveries that I made today. What will tomorrow bring? I guess I’ll find out. Until tomorrow.

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Hearing aids day two

Today we spent the afternoon driving to Washington DC to celebrate our 26th wedding anniversary. Steve played some music on his CD player, and as I listened, I discovered that I could understand most of the lyrics to three of them…and pieces here and there of others. I spent most of the afternoon in tears at the shock at being able to understand some of which was previously out of my reach.

My cousin Becki met us at our hotel and we went out to dinner. I didn’t have to struggle to follow the conversation, nor struggle to understand the waiter.

We’ll see how far I go until I have to give the phonaks back. It’ll be a sad, sad, day.

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Hearing aids and hearing things for the first time

Today I was loaned new hearing aids.They’re called the Naida, and they’re made by Phonak. The technology is amazing. In my audiologist’s office, I heard an S for the first time, and the clarity of a sh. Since these are a loan, I had to sign an agreement that I know that I have to bring them back. I was so captivated by the sound of the pen scratching on the paper that I added an extra “N” to my last name…and admitted that to the audiologist.
I went to my car and discovered that the seatbelt noise sounded different than what I was used to. I heard road noise I wasn’t used to hearing, and rattling from all the junk I carry in my car.
After doing a bit of shopping, I came home. I talked to my husband a bit, and then came the litmus test. I took out my guitar. I played a tune, and listened in wonder to the twang of the strings and the richness of the sound. I played some chords, and a couple of melodies. Then the tears started flowing. I was overcome by the clarity and richness of each sound. My guitar is a good one. It’s a Little Martin. I had been overcome by it’s sound in the store, and now I was overcome again. My chord playing became clearer.
I stopped playing, and with the tears flowing down my cheeks, told my husband. “We shouldn’t have done this.” Why shouldn’t we have done this? Because now I know. There’s a richer sounding world out there. I’m a musician despite my parents forbidding me music lessons when I was young because I would “fail” and despite the fact that the odds are against me being a musician with this kind of hearing.
Now I have been handed the fruit like Eve gave Adam in the Garden of Eden, and my eyes have been opened. There’s a world out there that I’ve known nothing about. Sound is richer than I could have ever dreamed. But it won’t last. I have to give them back. My life will never be the same because I will know what I am missing.

PS. Tonight we took a late night trip to Wal Mart. While waiting for my husband to come outside, I listened to a very consistent  noise with a cadence. It sounded very much to me like a snare drum being played softy. What I was hearing for the first time in my life was rain pouring  out of the downspout.


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Tricare and how they’ve sneaking cut benefits

Today I am discouraged. Many people know from reading his blogs, that my husband Steve  came home with PTSD, and has waged a valiant war to overcome it. What they don’t know, is that I, too, suffer from PTSD, but mine stems from childhood. Like my husband, I also see someone for it. It’s been hard work, and I haven’t seen my treatment as a luxury. It has meant the difference between being stuck having PTSD episodes, or learning to overcome them. Since the Iraq war, the military has made a big to-do of deciding to recognize PTSD and authorize treatment for it. They’re sending their troops to therapists in private practice when there aren’t enough therapists in the military. People have applauded that finally, there is access to care. Or is there? If you want my less than charitable opinion, they’re talking out of both sides of their mouths. As a military dependent, I have Tricare. I have been told that Tricare is one of the best out there, and that they pay well. This week I was scanning Tricare’s site to see if they’ve done any updating to their behavioral health benefits. Many of our states are passing or have passed mental health parity laws to make sure that treatment for mental illness is covered as other illnesses are. Tricare has some outdated rules on their books, which they refuse to update, and occasionally I check to see if they have updated their coverage and to see if they are ever going to cover mental health the way other illnesses are. Well, they aren’t. In fact, they’ve cut them drastically. How have they done this? If you look at their site where they discuss behavioral health, you’ll see “exclusions”. This used to be a relatively short list, mostly of odd and questionable therapies. In March of this year (2009), this list grew dramatically. Tricare simply and quietly added to their list of exclusions normal issues that therapists and their clients deal with. This is going to force therapists to drastically change how they work with clients and compartmentalize topics. Having trouble dealing with stress or have marriage problems? Are you struggling with sexual dysfunction? Too bad. You’ll have to suck it up. You can’t discuss them. Tricare will no longer pay for it. There are other things that they’ve quietly added to the list: Therapy for developmental disorders such as dyslexia, developmental mathematics, language, or articulation disorders. This alarms me. I have a one of those. It interfered with my every day functioning until I got help. Intensive Outpatient Programs aren’t covered any more. Hospitalizations are, and Tricare proudly proclaims that while you are allowed up to two visits a week outpatient, that inpatient that you are allowed up to five visits a week. The only problem with this is that therapists no longer visit hospitals. These visits no longer happen, yet Tricare clings to this rule because simply: if it’s not happening, they don’t have to pay for it. But they can proclaim from the rooftops that they will! EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) a method of reducing the pain of trauma is now banned. That’s a pity. It relieved my pain a few years ago. Guided imagery. While I am not a particular fan of this, it can be helpful. I could see it being used with someone trying to overcome a phobia, getting used to the idea of seeing themselves in the situation that they’re afraid of. One thing that has always been banned is biofeedback for psychosomatic conditions. I get high blood pressure and develop stomach problems when anxious. Biofedback could possibly teach me to reduce these symptoms. But I’ll never know, will I? They make a big thing NOT to touch anything to do with weight and weight reduction. I find this troubling because this can and does have both emotional and physical issues. Tricare will pay for surgery to have your stomach reduced. This is a quick fix. It won’t solve the underlying problem. These are just some of the things from the list that are routinely covered by insurance companies and most of which Tricare used to cover. Where do I see this going? By refusing to pay for treatment needed, they save money. This reduces your visits, because you can no longer get treatment that you need. Where do we draw the line? Can we draw a line? No, not really. We can complain to Tricare, and be spoken to rudely and disrespectfully. My husband was appalled when he talked to their representatives one time, and they only backed down when they found out that he was a chaplain. Why do they treat people poorly? Because they can. Tricare is bigger than us and they insure all of the military. They’re the bottom line. One time when I was trying desperately to get some added coverage for something that I needed, I got told that “patient care is NOT our priority. Following regulations is our priority”. And with that, I’ll end. Our lawmakers would never endure such treatment, nor allow their benefits to be cut. Yet they sit idly while our troops go to war, die, suffer PTSD, and their families are denied coverage. What do we do? I don’t have the answer to that one. I suspect that we can do nothing but let every last benefit be stripped from us. I find that troubling. Do you?

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