Friday, February 13, 2015

Is that aging that I hear?

If during a romantic dinner your mature date keeps craning his neck over the table it may not mean he's trying to steal a kiss or ogling your chimichangas. It could be the old coot just can’t quite hear what you’re saying.  

Or if you’re a preacher at one of the expat temples in San Miguel and some of the congregants stare at you strangely, as if trying to read your mind, maybe they are. It’s not that they are ready to accept Jesus into their hearts. Nah. More likely they can’t quite make out what you’re sermonizing about and are baffled by how Isaiah ended up in the belly of a whale.

Yea, hearing aids are another speed bump on the road between Medicare eligibility and the Six Feet Under cut-off. And an expensive jolt it is: Yesterday I went for a exam and two hearing aids and the bill came to $2,300 U.S. That's less than half what I was quoted in Chicago but still not a cheap afternoon.

Watcha' say? And at this point, should I care?
The trip to this point began a couple of years ago when I developed tinnitus, or buzzing in the ears. Fortunately I don’t notice it much unless I'm in a very noisy situation like a busy restaurant or one of those mega-decibel Iron Man movies.

Tinnitus is generally the result of damage to the hearing apparatus, in my case caused by listening to Santana and Blind Faith with earphones, volume turned way up, while smoking dope and eating pizza. That was eons ago, in college, when all my body parts worked perfectly except apparently for my brain and common sense.

And, ah, tinnitus is also often triggered by old age. Surprise.

Admitting that you need a hearing aid takes a while, in my case about a year, a process that involves one’s spouse yelling about the problem and one yelling back for him to get that sock out of his mouth and speak clearly. One can also blame it on weird foreign accents, like Australian, Canadian or Texan.

I think it's also called denial.

This dapper dude opted for the deluxe device. 
Another obstacle is cost. Hearing aids are in a class of essential medical devices, along with orthotics and eyeglasses, that are almost criminally overpriced and only minimally covered by insurance, if at all. Ever wonder why Gucci, Pucci and Fucci Minucci all hustle their own lines of eyewear?

Worse, there’s no alternative, particularly if you live in Mexico. In the U.S. a number of companies offer mail-order hearing aids some with money back guarantees. But American vendors don't extend such service to customers in Mexico.

Outfits like Costco offer “free exams” which are a bit like free grief counseling at a funeral home. The undertaker provides a complimentary box of Kleenex and a few minutes of hand-holding before hustling you into the showroom, where the $25,000 Forever Grandma line of mahogany caskets awaits you. And Costco's hearing aids in Mexico are actually more expensive than independent clinics despite its “free exam”—and some trashy reviews posted by dissatisfied customers in the U.S.

So onwards. Come Tuesday I should have those little buggers stuck in my ears.

Just don’t talk behind my back—I’ll hear you—and please, whatever you do, don’t tell me how you can hardly see the little wires coming out of my ears.

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