I am not sure exactly when I stopped hearing well, because the transition was seamless. Somewhere between being a bartender, where I was able to hear a customer’s order from halfway down a busy bar, and being a grown-up with a job that involves heavy phone use, I lost the ability to understand exactly what people were saying to me.

It pains me to say that I really didn’t notice. I pride myself on being a pretty aware person, with pretty good people skills. If I had been sharper, surely I would have noticed that my son wasn’t ignoring my comments from the other room; rather, he was answering me and I didn’t hear him. Another red flag? I was ‘reading’ my TV instead of watching it, through the magic of closed caption. I had been doing this for about a year, just because it made it easier to understand. And nobody hears well when they use a cell phone, right?

But my hearing became impossible to ignore when I got my latest job, which involved high phone use and background noise. I was constantly asking people to spell their last names, because I couldn’t understand them. I couldn’t ever remember having such difficulty. The big irony is that my new job is in the Champlain Valley Audiology office, and when I told my boss, Sharon, who is also the doctor, that I thought I was having trouble hearing, she practically rolled her eyes. “Yes, you should get an exam,” she said. So I did. And no big surprise, I had some hearing loss. Before long I was in the exam room. “I’m just going to put these on you and let you try them out,” Sharon said, and slipped the hearing aids in my ears. Suddenly, I heard the keyboard of the person typing in the next room. As I wore them around the office that afternoon, I found that the phone was no longer an instrument of torture, and I could understand people even if they weren’t looking at me.

I knew from the test-drive that I would benefit from having my own hearing aids, or bionic jewelry, as I prefer to think of them. But it was only at the end of the day, when I took the demo aids off, that I realized how much. Everything was muffled again, as if I had a pillow over my head, and because I had a direct comparison, I knew exactly what I was missing. Now I wear my hearing aids daily, and I once again have the hearing I used to have. The biggest surprise? I can once again tell how people feel from the tone of their voices, because I can hear their voices so much better. It’s super spy hearing, and the people in my life are as happy about it as I am. I did, however, have to tell them I was wearing my technology, because it’s virtually invisible, even with my hair up.

Here’s my advice—get your ears checked. You will be SO GLAD you did.

Anne Waling, Age 49