Hearing aid
Hearing aid fitted into the wearer's right ear (Photo by Anthony Camerlo, Unsplash)

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It is not an easy thing to share publicly, but I have presbycusis and it’s irreversible.

I don’t know exactly when or how I contracted it. Thankfully, I won’t need to wear a mask or go through a regimen of shots.

Presbycusis is the gradual loss of hearing in both ears that comes with age. I turned 70 in July.

I had my hearing checked in July, because I suspected it was diminished. I had difficulty hearing when I could not see the speaker’s face and whenever there was background noise.

Like when the air conditioning runs during staff meetings.

Like when I’m sitting in my backyard with guests and the neighbor is mowing.

Like when I’m watching TV and my son is yelling for me to turn down the volume.

Like when I’m in a bar and there are several nearby conversations and there is loud music playing. This condition gets worse after a few beers.

A correction I would hate to write

Generally, I’m fine on the phone because I turn up the volume. But do I really want my newsroom colleagues hearing my prostate exam results?

A big reason I want to hear well now is that I plan to continue to work another year or so, and as a reporter, it’s kind of important that I actually hear what people say to me.

I never want a source yelling at me, “I said ‘spunky ‘! I said he was ‘spunky!’ Not ‘chunky!'”

Sorry, Mr. Mayor.

I’d hate to write that correction.

Most often it’s the high-pitched sounds that are lost first. Since women generally speak at a higher pitch than men, this means I sometimes can’t hear my wife.

I know what you’re thinking; selective hearing can be a precious gift.

“No, honey. I must not have heard you. Of course I would have gone. I love baby showers.”

Don’t hear well? Who ya gonna call?

A hearing aid fits over and into the inner ear of its wearer. (Photo by Mark Paton, Unsplash)

Once I committed to having my hearing checked, I was unsure whom to call.

How do you find a good presbycusisist?

I think I googled “Springfield” and “hearing testing,” and the first company I called — or think I called — had the frustrating barebones phone message of “please leave a message at the tone.”

There was no mention of the company name. What if I had misdialed or the hearing specialist had gone out of business and a new company had the same number?

The last thing I want is to leave a personal health message with, say, Lucy’s Chinese Food.

My next call was to a hearing specialist on Primrose Street. I think I called because I know where Primrose is. On the owner’s card were the initials HIS.

No, it’s not a preferred pronoun. It stands for Hearing Instrument Specialist. It’s a profession licensed by the Missouri Division of Professional Registration.

She told me the price and guess what I said

She put me in a sound-proof room; I put on earphones; I responded on a clicker when I heard tones of different pitches; and I repeated spoken words I heard through the head phones.

That same day I was fitted me with state-of-the-art hearing aids — top-of-the-line loaners.

With these magical little devices, I can listen to music through them. I can have phone conversations through my Bluetooth-enabled cell phone with them. Sometimes they chime and I have no idea why.

Maybe the chiming is only in my head. Who do I see for that?

But the best part is that I now hear better.

I nestle them into their little charger at night and they’re ready to amplify the world for me in the morning.

My friends and co-workers have not noticed them in my ears. That matters to me. I might have old inner ears but I don’t want to be seen as an old man. That’s a hard thing to come to terms with for an old man.

I asked my hearing instrument specialist how much my pair will cost and — with an insurance benefit of $3,000 – they will cost me $3,590.

You can imagine what I said.


This is Pokin Around column No. 131.

Steve Pokin

Steve Pokin writes the Pokin Around and The Answer Man columns for the Springfield Daily Citizen. He also writes about criminal justice issues. He can be reached at spokin@sgfcitizen.org. His office line is 417-837-3661. More by Steve Pokin