Beyond just getting Mom to save the day for me on Saturday, I was treated to the revelation of what can only be heralded as a miracle for our family.
My dad can hear again.
I think it's been 8 years now that my dad's hearing has been severely impaired. After it initially happened, there was a lot of questions as to what actually happened and how it could be recovered. As time went on, there were few answers as to what the cause of the impairment was (a rare occurrence - I think the final consensus it was some sort of nerve damage) - but, the conclusion as to whether or not it would come back...that answer was decisive. No, the ear would not repair itself.
Dad has met with an audiologist and has had varying degrees of improvement found on each visit. However, the ear damage only seemed to get worse despite the extra aids he received.
Dad has always been a communicator. He loves to engage in one on one conversations - something that has been most certainly passed down to Michele and myself. Put us all in a crowd and we can hold our own, but being able to get deep with one or two people at a time is much more preferred.
Due to the hearing loss, put Dad in a crowd now, and he was thoroughly isolated - as often the hearing aids would only amplify background noises and not strengthen his ability to hear those near him. It's been absolutely heartbreaking to watch Dad be left out of conversations in restaurants or to have to be looking directly at a person to be able to pick up on what is being said.
About a year and a half ago, Dad met with his audiologist again and pointedly asked if he needed to start learning how to read lips as the current state of communication he was dealing with just wasn't cutting it. Knowing the situation would probably only worsen as time went on, he wanted to be honest with himself in terms of how to cope with it. The doctor had some great news for him, though - apparently the technology in the world of audiology and ear implants is moving at such a fast rate, that deafness and the use of sign language could virtually be a thing of the past within the next decade. But, it comes at a cost.
Again, however, Dad was given some good news. It was quite possible that because Dad is a Vietnam veteran, he could access veteran benefits that would pay for the multi-thousand dollar piece of technology that could be revolutionary for his hearing. So began Dad's 18 month wait for answers from Veterans Benefits....answers he has still yet to get. When you know something is so expensive, you figure, "Well, give it a couple more months"....and that's been going on and on.
In the meantime, Dad faced another health issue that merited more immediate attention. He had a cataract on his eye that needed to be removed - which cost money as well (another reason he wasn't eager to foot the cost of the hearing aid on his own). That surgery took place a couple of weeks ago - and the difference immediately after the surgery was profound. It's the second cataract surgery he's had, so he knew what to expect, but to have his vision remarkable restored...it's still awe-inspiring. And, he was thrilled.
Fast forward a couple more weeks and Dad found himself in Costco looking for glasses. He doesn't even really need them as his vision is so good out of that one eye, but has gotten so used to them - particularly the transition lenses for sunglasses...he opted to go with what he's used to. While he was at Costco, he wandered on over to the Hearing Center and started chatting with the folks who worked there over his situation, what his audiologist had told him, and what is now available. As it turns out, because 18 months have gone by, or because it's simply Costco, but the same technology to go into a hearing aid that he was hoping the Veterans Benefits would pay for - is now surprisingly less money. While it's too late to make a long story short....Dad walked out of Costco with the new technology in his ear.
When he got to the parking lot, tears came to his eyes as he heard birds again. He admitted that had he not been in a public setting, he would have bawled like a baby. (Sorry to "out you" Dad, but I think it only proves the kind of heart you have!). He went in the next day to have everything fine tuned - which only made the hearing better. It's amazing technology - based on "Bluetooth" - with three different settings based on what kind of environment he's in. I was in tears when he described it all to me before Mom had even worked on me...and then again afterwards as I watched him carry on a conversation with a neighbor across the street - a conversation I knew he never would have been able to have (to hear) a week prior. It was remarkable, unbelievable...truly a miracle.
Needless to say, with restored vision and hearing all taking place within weeks of each other for my dad he's working on a whole different outlook on life. It all makes me rejoice....
(Dad, if there's any details I got wrong in this account, please leave a comment and correct away. I'll adjust the post to make it as accurate as I can if you do....)