Among all the many early retirement activities at my disposal — reading, yoga, cooking, traveling, avoiding all forms of work, etc.– the one thing I hadn’t prepared myself for just yet was the opportunity to meet with medical specialists. But in the space of the last 30 days, Gorgeous and I have been to medical practices for ear nose & throat, orthopedics, neurology, oral surgery, and audiology. Additionally, we saw all of these good doctors only after being referred to each by our regular internist and dentist.
I’m all for doing my part to help to stimulate the holiday economy, but I was sort of thinking it’d be the retail sector rather than the medical one.
Maybe I didn’t pay close enough attention to previous signs that had been warning me. The last year of my career was a precursor of sorts when I made the acquaintance of some of the Upper Northwest’s finest medical specialists. Whatever they saw (and later removed) turned out to be, in the words of one of those distinguished physicians, “an unknown anomaly exhibiting no apparent danger.” I’m pretty sure that particular doctor was married to a mechanic who was working on my car at the time, because the diagnoses for human and auto were each phrased in strikingly similar fashion. When it was all over, I was told to get checked annually and just go forth in life with no worries. I am trying to do so, but I now have this habit of bringing a change of underwear when I visit the dealership for a 3,000 mile checkup.
The good news at the moment is that we are both in reasonably good shape. The tests which sent each of us to specialists in the first place have come out negative for all known fears. This means that by my own estimation at least two less Hoverboards were purchased for the children of these local doctors for Christmas. Sorry kids, maybe next year.
The bad news is that Gorgeous will start out the new year with continued dental drama. Swollen lymph nodes that prompted having to see the ENT specialist turned out instead to be a broken tooth. It will need to be extracted and replaced by an implant. In addition, she learned from two different audiologists that she has a moderate hearing loss of 40% that will require the permanent use of hearing aids.
I’ve known all along that she needed hearing aids. A spouse always knows certain things. Marital intuition and clairvoyance are powerful phenomena that couples have at their disposal via daily proximity. And of course there was also my having to respond to her constant query of “What?” several times a day. Yeah, sometimes you just know.
Over the last couple of years I’ve tried suggesting going for a hearing test, only to be told in no uncertain terms “my hearing is just fine thank you very much.” But as the television volume continued to rise, along with a preference for what eventually became permanent use of closed captioning for all of our favorite shows, Gorgeous finally began to notice the deficiencies in her hearing. You can only complain so many times about how fast those Brits on Downton Abbey speak. The final straw may have been in late fall when we had the windows opened one evening, and she admitted that she couldn’t hear the crickets chirping outside.
And to think some people download apps for white noise. She didn’t need to hear the crickets. The optimist in her believed she acquired the ability to create white noise naturally!
Once I made the decision to switch health plans in 2016, I needed to bust a move to get the hearing aids sooner rather than later. Our current Blue Cross plan is far more generous for hearing aids than the upcoming Samba coverage starting in January. I had to move quickly; the time for using subtle persuasion was over. There would be no more leaving the AARP and NARFE magazines stylistically curved to a slight angle, opened to a hearing aid advertisement, and placed near the coffee maker. No, it was time for a more unambiguous approach: guilt. I proceeded to use every trick my mother ever used, plus I employed the ingenious methods of TV mom Marie Barone. As guilt goes, that woman was a pro. I’m not proud of myself, but sometimes you have to, ‘er, pin back some ears.
We visited two audiologists to see if each of the tests might come out differently. Fortunately the results had virtually the same numeric value for the amount of hearing loss that she exhibits. That was where the similarities between the two practices ended, though. We were absolutely astounded by the price variances for all the different styles of hearing aids. Each one comes with unique features that has a significance in technology or appearance. The sheer number of options on all of them are dizzying. After two hours of explanations, I felt as if we were sitting in on a time share property presentation, minus the champagne. At one point I was ready to agree to anything just so that we could leave.
Once the product type and style were finally chosen and all the paperwork was completed, we made an appointment for the very next day for probably the most important part of getting a hearing aid: having impressions made in each ear canal. It is a critical operation designed to make sure the devices are properly sized. The process involves having a mold go up right against the ear drum and stay like that for up to three minutes. Unfortunately this procedure also creates a very painful suction in the entire ear and is quite uncomfortable.
It had been our plan to go directly to the gym after the impression-taking was over, which in fact we did do. In hindsight that probably wasn’t the smartest decision. Instead of the usual smile I receive during our workout when I glance over at the nearby elliptical, it was more along the lines of a nasty sneer along with a silent message of, “you’ll pay for this.” It took about eight hours or so for the discomfort to disappear. Dinner was carry out Chinese that evening.
The new hearing aids arrived about a week later. Since that time it’s been a matter of adjustment in learning how to put them in, hearing the new sound of one’s own voice, and adjusting to both foreground and background noises. In spite of my encouragement to try to do so, she isn’t yet ready to wear them while doing readings for her clients on the phone. She’s worried that she’ll miss specific vibrations and energy of the person with whom she’s speaking. She is looking forward to using them for in-person sessions, but for now she takes them out when she uses the phone for her work.
I remember when my mother had her own hearing aids back in the nineties, and how they filled up her entire ear. The ones Gorgeous has hide themselves quite well. Technological advancements include the ability to control them while you’re out and about through the use of your smartphone. She was quite proud of herself when she remembered the codes to change her personal settings as we drove to the beach the other day. Unfortunately once we got there, the sounds of the crashing waves were too much for her and she had to remove them. All in good time.
Instead of asking me to repeat things, our days are now mostly consisting of shushing and requesting that the radio and TV be lowered. Where I used to be able to blare Peter Gabriel singing “Supper’s Ready” to my heart’s content, I’m now being warned that if I don’t keep it down neither supper, breakfast, or lunch will be ready in my immediate future. It’s amazing how reminiscent this is turning out to be of an earlier time in my life.
Aside from the little matter of the dental implant, I remain hopeful that all things medical in the coming year will be left to our regular internist, and only for scheduled appointments or annual checkups. We’ve both seen enough of the specialists at least for now. In the meantime, will ya keep it quiet please? I’ve already got my hands full with those incendiary crickets in the backyard.
Until next time…