The Case of the Disappearing Hearing Aid – By Jim Klobuchar

The miracles of the modern hearing aid are well documented. It has restored and expanded the gifts of normal conversation.  Millions of us have been spared the awkward gymnastics of cupping our ears to learn the cost of a hamburger. We can ask directions to the restroom without walking around with a note pad.

The hearing aid’s virtues go far beyond those humble gifts of daily living. We can watch television without turning up the sound to levels that provoke lawsuits from the neighbors. We can listen to relatives on the phone without risking the embarrassment of hanging up while they’re still talking.

All of this liberation does come at a price. When you finally abandon your pride and admit that you need mechanical help you either have to dig into savings or stop playing bingo games. The latest listings put a pair of quality hearing aids in the $6,000 range.

You can travel around the world for less. Most dealers cushion the shock with a clause that guarantees a replacement in the event of loss—one time only.

My first set fell victim to an overzealous cleanup crew in the motel where I spent the night out of town. I applied for replacements, received them and thereafter took care keeping the hearing aids within predictable range each morning. Apart from fumbling with the battery changes, my hearing aids caused me no problems for the last nearly two years—until a few days ago in the middle of a massive mid-summer rainstorm.

For the last few months, my wife and I have been storing most of our portable belongings in preparation for a change in living quarters. This involves solemn and occasionally frosty arguments about what furniture needs to be sacrificed, whose Egyptian rug is headed for the Salvation Army, how many volumes of Agatha Christie are enough and what is the next destination my wife’s grandfather clock.

We were maintaining our schedules reasonably well heading into the climatic afternoon when we sorted and packed 12 boxes of books in our garage and loaded them into the car. In an intermittent rainstorm we drove four miles to the storage, stacked the boxes carefully to preserve space and, satisfied, we exchanged high fives and drove home.

There I discovered that the hearing aid on my right ear was gone.

We exchanged theories with reasonable calm. “It could have fallen when we were loading,” my wife theorized. “More likely,” I said, “it slipped off while I was changing clothes.”

I ransacked the closet, scoured every inch of the garage floor, checked out the car seats and burrowed into the odds-and-ends receptacle between the front seats, and prowled the grass lawn bordering the driveway.

“You might have dropped it loading the boxes in the storage,” my wife said.  I said that was unlikely because I remembered looking over the storage bin floor for anything we might have dropped. There was nothing on the floor. But we drove back to the storage. “It could be outside in the storage driveway,” my wife said.  I chivalrously smiled at my wife’s well-meaning suggestion.  

I sloshed through the grass, heavy with rainwater, and in my deepening gloom emptied a  trash can I was working on before we drove to the storage.  My wife thought the storage bin itself was a more likely culprit.

At this  stage and facing a cool $3,000 to $6,000 in replacement costs on the hearing aid, I drove back to the storage.  While my wife scanned the driveway outside, I  roamed the storage bin,  examining every inch of the surface.  The missing  hearing aid wasn’t back home, and it couldn’t have slipped into the boxes.  I was preparing to make one more sweep through the storage floor when my wife called sweetly from the storage driveway.  I walked over and found her pointing to the entrance of the storage bins.

The hearing aid was lying there unscathed.

More or less exactly as she’d predicted…

I drove home silently.

“I thought,” my wife said, “it was a great team effort.”