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Despite This we stay- May 7, 2009


by Carol Dunn

HUERFANO- After being around tractors, guns, farm equipment, motorcycles, loud music, fence post drivers, and wives screaming, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DIDN’T GET PAID YET?” the working class of Huerfano County eventually begin to lose their hearing.  You’ve met them.  You’ll be standing in line at the post office and carrying on a conversation with the guy beside you when he’ll turn to you with a blank look and say, “Huh?”

    It’s not that there aren’t affordable hearing aids.  Remember Granny Clampett’s ear horn?  You whack off a bull’s horn, punch a hole in the skinny end, and stick it in your ear.  Presto, hearing aid.  Ok, so it’s more practical to use the new digital hearing aids – little amps with equalizers that you stick in your ears.  They look like they’re worth about $50.  However, they are not $50.  Someone tell me why it is that in fifteen years a computer has come down in price from $5,000 to $500, but hearing aids have gone up from $1400 to $2400?  Wait, I just know it has something to do with the price of oil or the carbon footprint of a hearing aid.

    At the Health Fair, Rick and I decided to have our hearing checked.  It looked intriguing – getting locked into a soundproof booth wearing headphones and no straitjacket.  After you listen to a series of high and low squeals, a kindly fellow tells you how bad your hearing is.  To which you reply, “Huh?”  The most fascinating exam is the ear-camera, when a doctor inserts a tiny camera into your ear canal and magnifies it by a hundred times on a computer monitor so everyone at the health fair can see how you haven’t cleaned your ears in four years.  And honestly, if I hadn’t known the camera was inside an ear, I would have been wondering exactly what body orifice it had been inserted into.

    Unfortunately Rick’s ears have been abused by decades of most of the above mentioned noises plus all the screechings and squealings and dust of a cabinet maker’s shop.  So he had a follow-up appointment to see just how bad things are.

    As it turned out, the hearing technician was a disc jockey, so he knew what he was talking about.  Rick’s ears were clogged with what looked like a mixture of carpenter’s glue, sawdust and ground up adobe bugs, and the stuff was in there pretty tight.  (No wonder he never listened to me!)  The technician worked on the ears for an hour, squirting water in and having it spew back out like some new-age head-fountain.  I was only trying to be helpful when I suggested using needlenose pliers to dig that stuff out, but you could tell he thought that was about as funny as showing up at a country-western DJ gig with only rap music.  Anyway, eventually the right ear was unblocked. And out of the left ear, he pulled what could best be described as a corn nut.  Even the technician flinched when he saw it, though he was trying to act like it was no big deal.  I don’t think he ever pulled a corn-nut-thing out of someone’s ear before.  And yes, Rick said he could hear a lot better – so good in fact, he no longer needed a hearing aid.