Friday, November 12, 2010




Old(er) people still need to drive. They continue to like movies, television and conversation with friends. They truly love to talk to grandchildren and great grandchildren.

But to do all those things they need to hear.

Now my hearing is only marginally degraded, and right now I would not have to do without any of those things I mentioned. But I was told my marginal hearing will - not might - will get worse.

I went to get tested and fitted for hearing aids the other day. Like I said, it was marginal and noticeable worse at the "high" frequency (eight kilohertz - eight thousand cycles per second - not really very high). By the way, when I was young, in my early twenties, I could hear from 30 hertz to 30 kilohertz). Now my hearing is noticeably worse at eight kilohertz. And both ears are equally bad. The doctor told me it was a nerve problem, and they have no cure for it. No surgery. Nothing. I simply have to get hearing aids.

And the constant ringing in my ears?

Ditto. They can't do anything at all to help.

So I ordered two hearing aids. One for each ear. Not the cheapest ones because they don't help at all to hear in shopping places, restaurants, concerts, meetings, large social functions or during travel times. The best hearing aids that help with all these situations were prohibitively expensive. So I ordered the next best. Nice compromise. I get to hear my friends and family in a restaurant. I get to hear a symphony. I get a little help with meetings. Quiet conversations, television, telephone conversations and family at the dinner table will seem normal.

And the hearing aids only cost $2275.00.

For each one.

That's the cost so that I'm not relegated to a future life of silence all around me. (Remember, my hearing WILL get worse over time.)

Now, I have medical insurance through my wife's employer, a clinic which likes to think of itself as the Second Mayo Clinic. So, nothing to worry about, right?


They won't pay one cent for hearing aids. And neither will Medicare. The coverage is nothing. Nada. Zip.

I'm lucky. I inherited some money from a second cousin, so I won't have to burden my credit cards.

But what about the folks who don't have any kind of nest egg at all? And have truly bad hearing? And can't afford to charge this on a credit card?

They get to give up their mobility. Quit driving. Sit silent and watch grandchildren, television, movies, whatever, with no accompanying sound.

That would be a great life, wouldn't it? Just because their medical coverage doesn't cover hearing aids. Not even Medicare, which is the medical savior for old folks.

Great way to treat your elders, America! Thanks for the promising future.

By the way, if you have to ask if I want to see a single-payer government medical plan, you're not thinking very well.