Pump Up The Volume – When Aging Parents Need Hearing Aids

hearing‘I GUESS your grandmother was right, Pussycat’, my mother ruefully admits in the car on the way to get fitted for a hearing aid. “That certain something that annoys you about another person is exactly what will afflict you.”

After years of kvetching about having to constantly repeat herself to my father, my mother’s ear infection has left her practically deaf in one ear and the other one is not open for discussion.

In defense of my father, he did get a hearing aid at the time and even wore it for about five minutes. When I asked “Dad, are you wearing your ear thingy.. because you don’t seem to be hearing a word I’ve said”, I’d always get a cryptic, “Oh, it doesn’t fit right, keeps falling out” from him and the conversation would be adeptly nudged in a new direction.

Over time I’ve concluded that after a fifty plus year stretch of being married and now minus an office job to escape to, letting that hearing aid collect dust in some forgotten drawer is my father’s way of just tuning into some private time.

This is all just peachy as far as my mother’s concerned, she also likes her privacy. So much that the mere mention of a hearing aid has her cursing and spitting tacks in all directions. Fine. Not touching that one with an eleven foot pole.

Fast forward to a fabulous family wedding in Florida’s summer heat, my mother and I are sitting together on the hired bus headed from the post-wedding sunset sail to the   reception. Where more delicious tropical drinks beckon us.

Everything is just honky-dory and I have gotten quite used to SPEAKING VERY LOUDLY around my mother to avoid repeating myself more than thrice. I always know she’s faking it when she just nods and smiles at my musings regardless of the subject matter. “Your hair is on fire”, I test with a smile. “Oh, ha-ha… yes, yes… mm-hmm” my mother nods, her eyes betraying the fact that she hasn’t got the foggiest what I’ve just said.

As the bus nears the delicious tropical drink destination my mother reveals, in a hushed tone that the entire busload and those in surrounding vehicles can make out, “Did you know that the parents of the bride only paid for one fourth of the wedding!?”


I wince and discreetly turn around to survey the damage, praying the parents of the bride are riding in a completely different vehicle vibrating with the loud boom of heavy metal. The blood drains from my body as I spot them, sitting there right behind us… not moving a muscle.

There is not enough room under the bus seat for me to completely crawl underneath and wallow in my pool of drained blood. Instead I give my mother the elbow, hard and hiss “They’re right behind us ma!”. Huh, what-what, what!! What’s right behind us!?” she queries shrilly at the top of her lungs, concerned she may have missed something juicy.

She finally comprendes when I slowly draw my finger across my throat and bug my eyeballs practically out of their sockets. “Oh” is all that squeaks out from twixt her lips.

I can laugh about this now that both my parents sport spanky new hearing aids and yes, they are turned on.

After swimming through oceans of sinking sand to convince them that being able to hear is a good thing they now appreciate that if you want quiet, that should be a choice.

Okay, I laughed about it then too.

Choosing to shut out one’s mate now and then for some privacy is one thing, but shutting out the whole world is another matter.

Lately I imagine my folks snickering as they turn off their hearing aids the moment they hear my car pull out.

Grandma, does this give me good karma?

hearingEsmée SJ