What’d you say?

I have hearing aids.

They’re new – I’ve had them for six weeks now. They’re making a big difference in my quality of life. Like a friend said, “They’re not glamorous, but they are helpful.”

I first had a concern about my hearing probably ten years ago. I went to an audiologist, who said he didn’t see anything wrong. So I assumed that meant I wasn’t paying enough attention to what was going on around me, and I made efforts to be more tuned in.

Then five years ago, I realized that I’d been saying, “Huh?” a lot, so I saw an audiologist again. This time, the tests showed hearing loss in each ear. The right ear registered sounds on the line marking “normal” hearing, and the left ear was slightly below the line.

That audiologist told me I was a candidate for hearing aids, but I probably wouldn’t notice a huge difference. I’d get a “bigger bang for my buck” if I waited until the loss was more significant.

So he taught me some coping strategies:

  • Don’t shout from room to room.
  • Face the person you’re speaking to, so you can see their lips moving.
  • In a restaurant, sit in a booth, with your back to the crowd, so the only sound coming to you is your dining partner’s voice.

These techniques helped immensely, particularly the second one. I found I could “hear” what was being said when I could see the other person’s lips move. One of my former co-workers even went so far as to back her chair up from behind the filing cabinet, so I could see her clearly when we talked across the room. She was so thoughtful!

But as time went on, I began to notice that I couldn’t hear people when they whispered, and I started wearing a headset at outdoor theater productions.

Fast-forward to March, and I was sitting next to my best friend at a live indoor theater performance where my daughter was working. We’re four rows from the stage, and I had my hand cupped behind my ear to try and catch the dialogue. At intermission, my friend told me that the actors were projecting well, and she wasn’t having any difficulty understanding them. I knew it was time.

So I saw an audiologist, who sent me to an ENT, to make sure there was nothing on the nerves blocking the sound waves. He walked in the room, took one look at me and declared I was too young for hearing loss. “Oh, I think you’ll be surprised,” was my response.

And he was. I had significant loss in each ear, with the left still being worse than the right. He sent me back to an audiologist, who fitted me for the hearing aids.

The technology of hearing aids has come a long way since my grandpa’s old devices. The aids communicate with each other and adjust as I enter a room, so if sound is coming from the left, the right one will adjust accordingly. Or I can control the volume and direction of the sounds I’m hearing with a tap on the app on my iPhone. My phone actually projects the caller directly into my hearing aids, so I hear very clearly on a phone call. There’s even a music setting, and customizable programming for what I hear (like an equalizer on the stereo). I’m sure I’ll use those more as my hearing loss increases.

The aids themselves are very small. The hearing piece is down in my ear canal – no big ol’ fake-flesh-colored gadget. The wires are translucent, so you don’t obviously see them as they trail up my ear to the battery piece. Yes, that still goes over my ear, but it came in lots of colors, so we picked a shade of silver to match my gray hair! Again, pretty unobtrusive.

They’re expensive little buggers, though, and each aid uses one battery approximately every 9 days. I’ve been told that the savings on batteries alone will pay for a Costco membership. Insurance didn’t cover any of the aids’ cost – that’s apparently typical, which I think is a shame. How is an older person on a fixed income supposed to hear?

I’m grateful to have these little tools. I can hear my kitty purring. I can hear the birds in the trees, and their chatter at the feeder. I love being able to hear on the phone, and when a friend is praying. I can even hear my husband calling me from another room!

It’s like my world has opened up again. And I can hear the joy in it.

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It’s been awhile…

I didn’t really intend to take the summer off from writing. But it seems like that’s exactly what I did. My last post was June 13th, which is a season ago! Sorry for being incommunicado – let me catch you up.

Summer was good. My mood has been up – it seems that the cocktail of antidepressants I take is working to keep my depression in submission. Yay! I meet monthly with a therapist – I believe medication is more effective with regular talk therapy, and statistics support this fact.

The highlight of the summer was a two-week vacation – I’ve never taken two weeks before. It’s a wonderful feeling to get to the end of the first week, realize vacation is usually ending… but this time, it’s not! There’s a whole other week left!

A museum/home on Lake Maggiorie

The first few days were just my husband and me, connecting with a colleague of his is Lugano, Switzerland. We stayed in a five-star hotel (wow!) and enjoyed a boat excursion around Lake Maggiorie and a furnicular ride to the top of the mountain. We sat in bistros and watched people, and drank delicious champagne and ate great food! That part – all by itself – was a fabulous vacation.

Then we traveled to Germany, where we connected with another of my husband’s colleagues, and at this point, our kids joined us. So we had a family vacation, complete with a monestary-stay and an enormous hike around a mountain. A second vacation – full of family, food, and new friends.

Beautiful German architecture in Gelnhausen

But then, just when the fun should have been ending, we spent a week in France with two long-time-friend-families. We rented a beautiful home in Normandy – saw the beaches and museums, ate delicious food and shopped and relaxed and laughed. Another memorable vacation!

Relaxing in France with friends and food

When we came home, I went back to work part-time. I’ve also been doing volunteer work all summer at an adult care center – I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the residents and staff.

I got hearing aids – that’s a topic for another blog post.

And now it looks like a dream of mine is coming true – the start of a peer-led depression support group at our church. We’re just in the infancy of getting the process rolling, but I’m thrilled. This has been a heartbeat of mine for several years, and it’s exciting to see it start to come together – all in God’s perfect timing. He is bringing the facilitator team together – it’s awesome to see Him working!

I’m still missing my kids, as they are each living many miles away. But I treasure the memories and pictures we made in France. Until I see them again, it’s just me, my hubby, and the cats. Life is good! And it feels really good to say that!

The kitten, Henry (front), is almost as big as Annie!

Ooh and Ahh

My husband and I have a long-standing joke. It’s “ooh and ahh.”

It started many years ago, when he built a shelving unit in our first garage. It was a big piece, 2x4s for the ends, big sheets of plywood for the shelves – stacked three or four high.

When he finished building them, he asked me to come look, and to “ooh and ahh.” For the next week or so, every time we were in the garage, or backing the car out into the driveway, I’d say “Ooh! Ahh!” Like the crowd response to fireworks.

The game stuck, and whenever he would build shelves (I figure he’s built this design five or six times), I’d “ooh and ahh” for a week or so. He’d plant a garden, and I’d “ooh and ahh” when I was in the yard. He’d paint a room, and I’d “ooh and ahh” every time I came into the space. He’d install self-made organizers in a closet, and I’d “ooh and ahh” when I’d organize my craft supplies onto the shelves.

This past Saturday, he built shelves in the spare room closet. “Ooh. Ahh.”

 

On Sunday, he built the garage shelves again. “Ooh. Ahh.” He organized the stuff from the garage walls onto the shelves. “Ooh. Ahh.”

 

 

 

Yesterday, I unpacked all the books and photo albums we’ve had in boxes for the past couple of years. I organized them on the bedroom closet shelves.

When hubby got home in the evening, I asked him to come check out my handiwork.

His response? “Ooh. Ahh.”

Good answer!

Getting older…

…is not for the faint of heart!

I turn 54 years old in just a couple of hours, and this week has been full of reminders of aging.

I went for an audiology test on Monday, because I couldn’t hear at my daughter’s show a couple of weeks ago. We were sitting four rows from the stage, and I had to cup my ear and lean forward to hear the actors. Earlier this week, I sat directly across the room from my friend, and had to sit on the edge of the couch and try to read her lips as she was speaking; I still missed at least 1/4 of what she said. And at Connection Group, when another friend bowed her head, I just “agreed in the Spirit,” since I couldn’t hear a word that was prayed!

The audiologist told me that there might be some physical reasons for my hearing loss, and recommended I see an ENT before continuing with her. Yet still, the graph she documented showed a distinct hearing loss from my last test, about four years ago. And there must be a genetic component, as I think both my dad and grandpa started wearing hearing aids about this time in their lives. Oh, goodie!

In the meantime, my husband just hands me the volume controls each night as we watch Netflix.

Additionally, my back has been hurting for months. It begins as a severe pain every morning when I first get out of bed. Then a month ago, it moved lower in my spine and started causing the sciatic nerve to flare up. Four weeks of increasing chiropractic and massage care hasn’t helped, and today I told my doctor that I couldn’t take the pain anymore. She thinks I should see an orthopedist, to check for a herniated disc. I walk hunched over and leaning to my right side as pain shoots down my left leg and I grasp for the counter so I don’t fall. Should I lean on a cane?

I watch YouTube videos on how to apply makeup tricks to aging skin. But I can’t seem to cover both my dark eye circles and my wrinkles.

I think I need new cheater glasses – my old ones don’t seem to be strong enough, and I can’t read a thing without them. Mostly, I wear them on the top of my head, since I refuse to wear them around my neck. At least I can usually find them, until I’ve laid them down who knows where – I can’t remember where I put them! I keep an extra pair in my purse, on my nightstand, and by my iPad. Still, I find myself looking all over for them when I need to read the instructions for cooking the take-and-bake bread.

I take 6 medications/vitamins in the morning, and 3 more at night. I’ve got my own little pharmacy by my toothbrush.

At least my body is in shape –  after all, round is a shape. right?!

I got my first gray hair when I was 19 years old, but now my whole head is gray.  Good thing it looks like highlights in the short haircut I wear. Just think current Jamie Lee Curtis.

Seriously, aging is not for cowards!

A Wine Tasting Party

Last Saturday night, my husband and I hosted a Wine Tasting Party for five guests. It was supposed to be Wine and/or Beer Tasting, since we assumed that not all of our guests would like wine. But only one couple brought beer, and everybody agreed to just drink Pinot Noir for the evening.

My husband had made a delicious spinach/artichoke dip, and we served it in bread bowls. I also brought out a variety of cheeses and artisan breads. A bit carb-heavy, but delicious! The Parmesan cheese was particularly good with the wines.

Everyone got a scorecard and a wineglass, plus their plateful of goodies (which we later brought to the table for easy reach). We did not hide labels, but instead recorded the name and year of each wine. My husband poured a little of one wine into each glass, and we all studied our goblets. (We repeated the process for each wine.)

We examined the color – ranging from clear red to deep garnet. We learned about legs – the viscosity of the wine, which also indicates the alcohol content; those of us who had the cut-crystal goblets had a tougher time seeing the wine cling to the glass. We stuck our noses in deep, and inhaled the bouquet – did we smell grass or oak or mushrooms? We read the label to see if we could tell. Everybody took a sip with a mouthful of air, and let the wine wash through our mouths – we tasted jam and cherry and once tasted licorice. We commented on the aftertaste. Some left our tongues feeling dry, and some stayed on the palate a long time. We all finished our glasses and sometimes had a little more before starting the process again with the next bottle.

Next to each of these categories, we wrote down scores – for color, bouquet, taste and finish. Some recorded only numbers, while others of us wrote long explanations. When all of the wines had been tasted, we each totaled the scores and ranked them. We tried five different wines (one we tried very cold vs room temperature to see the difference). We all agreed which was our least favorite, but the rest of the results were mixed.

We ended the evening with champagne and chocolate fondue and dippers (strawberries, bananas, pineapple, marshmallows, Nilla Wafers). And the beers – locally brewed – were tasted and evaluated by several guests.

A fun time was had by all. And the leftover bread made great French toast this morning!