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Reflections! What do you hear?

"What do you hear?"
By William L. Bulla

You may wonder why I ask that question? I suppose it is because I am experiencing a new way of hearing. A few days ago I started wearing hearing aids for the first time in my life, and it has been quite an experience for me. Not just one hearing aid, but two! Oops! I just noticed the manual I received with them refers to them as hearing instruments. Maybe that's why I find them so noisy, as they are band instruments run amok, rather than something to aid me in hearing. I find them so noisy that I keep removing one of them to understand what people are saying to me.
With both instruments in my ears, a slight tap of my finger on top of my head sounds like someone banging on the front door of my home. Eating sounds like an army marching through my head. When trying to speak to someone my voice sounds, not only unlike my voice, but as if I were talking with my head in a barrel. A barrel with amplification! To get some idea as to how this works, plug up your ears with your fingers and talk out loud. Of course that experiment is without the amplification.
The first day I wore these instruments; I kept hearing a strange sound. In my endeavors to try to determine the source of this sound, I came to realize I was hearing myself wheeze. A sound that I didn't know I was making. If you happen (pardon the expression) to "burp" you may think the top of your head just left you. And if you experience my problem with allergies, having sneezing attacks can be an equally devastating experience.
I also have difficulty in determining the location of an individual speaking to me in a roomful of people when several are speaking at the same time. The manual suggests that if you have difficulty in hearing a person, ask them to speak directly to you, speak slowly and do not shout. That's what I was doing before I obtained these hearing instruments.
While driving in my car, I suddenly became aware of what sounded like the wind blowing. This required me to close the air conditioning vent or reduce the sound volume in my left ear, I turned the sound down in that instrument, and then I had to turn up the car radio to make up for the loss of volume.
The manual told me that I could talk on the phone with the instruments in my ears. I have found it to be awkward and I have been popping the instrument out of my ear, then I find it difficult to hear. Therefore, I now put the phone on speaker and can carry on a decent conversation. Caution! By doing this, you may find you are sharing phone conversations with other people in the room when on the speakerphone.
I have discovered in noisy environments, as a restaurant, for example, I am more comfortable by removing one of the instruments. This reduces the magnification of the background noise produced by the instruments. It allows for a more enjoyable meal. My manual says it is all right to do this. It also says that many people wear their instruments for a few hours each day. I guess it is up to me to determine which individuals I want to hear each day.
Excuse me! Did you speak to me? I'm sorry I can't hear you. I've removed my hearing instruments for the day.
William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.

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