I’m exhausted from a day of trying to communicate with Maude (not her real name), a senior lady I help out once a month. The theme of the monthly drive to Douglas is either me going hoarse trying to scream loud enough so she hears me, or absolute silence after I give up. I can’t keep turning my head while I’m driving to slowly mouth words at her. I am not inarticulate, my father was partially deaf and we were taught very young to look at him directly and enunciate clearly, something that’s stuck with me through my life. The reason it worked was because it was out in the open and we dealt with it accordingly. For a productive conversation, the hard-of-hearing person must also contribute by at least trying to pay attention.
But why do so many people whose hearing is failing act like nothing’s wrong? Why do they want to engage you in conversation when they won’t hear your answer? Our neighbor is also almost deaf and loves to chat—when I shout and gesticulate to him that he needs a hearing aid, he says, “what for?” So I don’t have to walk the other way when I see you, that’s why!
I’m not talking about deafness as a disability, I’m talking about aging. I’m not young myself, and some day we will all have to confront these nightmares…but if the time comes when I see people’s mouths moving but don’t hear anything, I hope to hell I have the sense to face up to it.
I think Maude finally understands now that she’s going deaf. Maybe she didn’t realize it was happening, or maybe she was in denial. I would ask for more information but every question has to be coaxed at a piercing level. I see her getting worse. She lives in an exile of unmindfulness. Her life seems bleak to me, she’s lonely and depressed, and who wouldn’t be?
She’s got three adult children with jobs—could it be possible that they are so oblivious they don’t know their mother is nearly deaf? It’s my belief that people don’t really communicate, so this kind of proves my point. People mostly talk at each other, not to each other, so maybe her kids don’t notice…they only talk on the phone anyway. But they should be trying to help her, they could each chip in or whatever. Jesus, one of them is a lawyer, you’d think she’d know how to figure stuff out.
Maude finally asked the guy she goes out with about his hearing aid, and he said it cost $1500, and Medicare doesn’t pay for hearing aids. So I shrieked, “does he have a computer?” Yes, she said…but there was no point in asking her why the useless old bastard doesn’t get on it and do some research.
I am determined to help her find some financial assistance so she can rejoin the living. I’ve bookmarked a bunch of websites and sent an e-mail to the Lions Club. Tomorrow I will get on the phone. I can’t sit back and watch this woman’s life destroyed by isolation. Any advice is appreciated.
Here’s a funny joke: An old man was wondering if his wife had a hearing problem. So one night, he stood behind her while she was sitting in her chair. He spoke softly to her, “Honey, can you hear me?” There was no response. He moved a little closer and said again, “Honey, can you hear me?” Still, no response. Finally he moved right behind her and said “Honey can you hear me?” She replied, “For the third time, yes!”