An old artilleryman learns how to hear all over again, with aids

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As I type my weekly column I hear clicking sounds from the laptop keyboard, I’d never heard before.

In the second day of wearing hearing aids, the sounds may drive me crazy. I hear the unheard. Ice cubes clink in a glass? Yep.

There’s a story behind my getting here. And, I can share tips to older folks who don’t have hearing aids. Go get them.

In one way, I’m lucky. The Veterans Administration finally said I’m eligible for the best hearing aids made. The bad part is the U.S. Army ruined my hearing decades ago.

After ROTC army training as an MU student, I became a 2nd Lieutenant in field artillery. In training at Ft. Sill, Okla., I learned to fire artillery. Lots of big bangs in that.

My first duty in artillery was in a School Troop Support Battalion. That unit fired artillery shells to train new officers. Many more big bangs.

Back then, there was no mandate to wear ear plugs to silence explosions.

I never knew what I’d lost. Aging, my hearing didn’t get better. Last winter, I had pneumonia. That took a toll on what hearing I had left.

Two vintage veterans in my Sunday School Class couldn’t believe I hadn’t gone to the V.A. for hearing aids.

Free aids!

Shaming me most was a photo student I was helping. He wore hearing aids he’d earned in Afghanistan. He’d fired many big bangs. He couldn’t believe that I, an artilleryman, wasn’t wearing aids. “Go get ‘em,” he said.

At first, the V.A. rejected my request. I had served in peacetime, after the Korean War and before Vietnam. It was finally proven that I had fired more artillery than some who served in war, I became eligible. That task took about six months of paperwork.

Here’s my message to all who served in the military, firing guns, go apply for hearing tests.

When an audiologist finally got to me, she couldn’t believe I’d gone so long before coming in. She went to bat for me against bureaucrats. Finally, I was declared “disabled.” Three days ago, I started my new hearing.

Rumors about the VA being slow are true. But, when I got to Harry S. Truman Veterans Hospital, I found the most kind, caring, people ever known.

They said there were about 80,000 veterans in Missouri.

Veterans Day takes on new meaning for me this year.

There’s more for readers to know. The only people with worse hearing than artillerymen are farmers. They’ve spent years working around loud machines without ear protectors. My advice, get hearing aids. You may not know what you miss hearing.

Yesterday, I learned those birds in the tree out front sing happy songs. The ambulance arriving on the highway a mile away makes loud siren sounds. Also, the turn signal on my car makes clicking sounds. I’m sure I’ll notice to turn off my signal now.

Artillery ears can’t hear high pitch sounds. The bass comes through fine. Some women thought I purposely ignored them. No, blame it on all of those 105 howitzer rounds. Firing an M-1 rifle on the target range to earn a marksman badge didn’t help.

I am assured by those who have V.A. hearing aids that I’ll get used to all the new sounds. I’m still settling into my new world. Just don’t make large crashing sounds near me. I’ll jump out of my skin.

Most of all, if you served in the military go to the V.A. Start the testing process. It took me six months of paperwork. I had not saved vital papers needed to prove where I’d been and what I did.

The warehouse with my Army records in St. Louis burned. Someone put my records back together, somehow. Bless them.

Meanwhile I learned lip reading.

V.A. workers are wonderful, supporting veterans.

Share your hearing aid tips. I need them. Send to duanedailey7@missouri.edu.

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