Just when I thought that I had my medical problems pretty much under control, I got blindsided. The wife is the youngest of nine children. The five oldest, each in turn, have had to get hearing aids as they hit the 60/65-year-old range. Some genetic weakness apparently. The oldest warned her twenty years ago that her time would come. The one sister, with the husband who ran his own small specialty plastering business, and who had more money than any two or three of the rest, cheaped out and only got a hearing aid for one ear. She was born during the depression, but that was a long time ago….Really? Another sister denied a 40% hearing loss until the audiologist put his hand in front of his mouth and asked what he was saying. She had unconsciously learned to lip-read to make up for the slow loss.
The wife’s doctor moved from an office two blocks from my disabled daughter, where she could quickly and easily get there in her powered wheelchair, and a mere five minutes down the street from our home. She moved to the far side of the neighboring city. Fortunately, highway access is nearby, but it still takes twenty minutes, and now I have to drive the daughter, who used to have a small degree of independence. The doctor moved in with four other doctors in what is described as a limited clinic. I think the correct pronunciation is MONEY MILL.
If you just walk in, the first doctor who has an opening will see you. If you want to see your specific doctor, you make an appointment, and with a set-up like that, appointments can be two to three weeks. The group of doctors owns an entire one-floor building. Their offices and examining rooms are at one end. They have leased space to a captive pharmacy at the other end, and in the middle, is where the real money is made. They employ a staff who provide massage therapy, osteopathy, physiotherapy. They do cardiac echograms, and they have a hearing testing booth with hearing assist diagnosis and suggestion. You can almost hear the cash registers ringing as you walk in. It’s like a licence to print money.
Once upon a time, manufacturing companies made a product, from the sale of which, they derived a profit. Now, companies make money. Banks used to take your cash and lend it out at a profit, from which they paid a portion to you as interest. Now, banks make money, and you even have to pay them for the privilege of getting your own money back. Doctors used to heal sick people. Now doctors make money. If someone happens to get better in the process, it’s co-incidental.
The wife finally decided to book an appointment to have her hearing tested. Since the big Costco store is on the edge of town as we come back, we picked up the daughter, so that we could do some shopping on the way home. The daughter is probably subject to the same genetic hearing problem as the wife. Her turn would normally come in about twenty years but, about eight years ago, she had a terrible double-ear infection. They gave her Cipro, you know, the stuff that stops anthrax. Normally it’s a five-day dosage. She was so bad that she got ten. As the wife left to get her test, the daughter commented that she wished she could have her hearing checked also. The wife popped into the exam room for a few seconds and then came out and waved the daughter down the hall. Apparently they had some free time in the schedule. Because of the infection, the wife and daughter’s results were almost identical.
The wife remained with the tech and the daughter came back to the waiting room to give me the results. I was happy that they now had quantifiable results and said; at least I didn’t have to go through this, when the wife stuck her head out of the door and crooked her finger at me. Sure enough, there was enough time for me to get tested too. I worked in a reasonably noisy plant the last twenty years. The government mandated that the company had to have us checked each year. I knew that I had a slight loss, but agreed with the tester, who put it down as much to normal aging, as plant noise.
Within twenty minutes I was being fitted for new electronic hearing aids, excuse me, Hearing Assistors! They were cheap at $2000/pair. Apparently the government will pay for half, and they had already checked to ensure that my retirement benefits would cover the balance. KaChing! How can you say no, to something free.
These things are somewhat like a Bluetooth. They hang over and behind each ear. They don’t fill the ear like (especially the old) hearing aids, a tiny tube runs into the ear with a soft rubber ring on the end, something like a ski-pole bottom. The normal sounds go through the openings and this programmable unit just adds the ranges that you are missing.
A man is convinced that his wife is going deaf. To prove it, from the living room he asks, “What’s for supper?” No answer, so he moves to the hall and repeats the question. Still no answer. He’s more convinced than ever and moves into the kitchen and asks once more, “What’s for supper?” His wife turns around and says, “For the third time, stew!”
My wife’s hearing loss is in the mid-range, where my normal voice is. My hearing loss is in the upper range, where her voice is. We weren’t ignoring each other; we just couldn’t hear each other. There goes my excuse for not doing some of the things she asks. I can hardly wait to see what my next technological improvement will be, a motorized walker perhaps. Maybe I can get John Erickson to help me mount a .50 cal. to deal with handicapped parking spot violators.