The Hearing Aid

I just love going to antique markets, particularly Long Beach Antique Market on the the 3rd Sundays of each month.  It’s a blend of antiques and retro items and a few plant booths – nothing (aside from plants) is brand spankin’ new. So many items to see and dream of repurposing…a burgundy plumeria intoxicated me with its rich, creamy scent and a price tag that Lowe’s and Home Depot can’t beat and it’s now on my patio awaiting repotting.

The fragrance is swoon-worthy.

There are some incredibly old items, like this Farmers & Mechanics Almanack from 1833.  Yes. 1833.  That is 179 YEARS ago. The back two pages are damaged but this was when paper was really paper and no lignin, no acid-free concerns, no deterioration.

Can you imagine?  I stopped and thought – this was printed in Philadelphia. My Shobert great-great-grandfather was born in northwestern Pennsylvania in 1845. Could his father have had a copy of it at his inn/tavern as he was starting out with his business and being newly married?

Phases of the Moon for planting, weather predictions, an ongoing discourse through the pages on US politics and the still-new (!) Constitution, and anniversary dates of battles from – wait for this – the War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War. This history junkie is still delirious at having this in her own hands and for only $10??  If only the pages could talk! Oh, I’d have so many questions about its journey from the East Coast to the West Coast and what it saw along the way.

Of course I love me my sparklies and some new chandeliers were in. It took some powerful self-restraint not to get this one with the unique crystals…I might break down next month if it’s still there. Big if. Maybe the vendor will be back and maybe it will still be for sale. (I’m still kicking myself over that one item from last year that I didn’t get.)

Where would I put it? Does that even matter? Nah. I’ll find a place for it. Here’s a nice close-up of it:

And whose daddy didn’t have this in his garage somewhere, back in the fifties and sixties? Still love the elegant red Pegasus…

I started out on the west end of the antique market – it’s 20 acres with some 800 vendors and easily takes four hours to see all the booths – and I was settling into my groove when something from my past unexpectedly caught my eye. Time came to an abrupt stop.

Time then did a slip-slide and 2012 ceased to exist. I was eight years old, ten years old and immersed in the memories and sensations brought on by this item:

 This is a Zenith hearing aid, probably 1966 to 1968. Mine was 1964, brass with a brown center, and the center clip was a bit more rounded at the corners. The cord, the grill in the center and the earmold are exactly the same. I remember exactly the odd grating sound if a fingernail was scraped across the grill (sound intake area). The sound I heard if it was clattered onto a table.  I have no doubt that my sisters can describe the feedback from that Zenith even now. The soft, warm silicone being injected into the ear when a new mold needed to be made. The adjustment to the new mold – it was inflexible and harder than a rock and would hurt for days until the ear got used to it. (Being allergic to silicone didn’t help, either.) Clipping it to outer wear or undergarments, although we wore it in a cloth pocket with halter straps that went around the shoulders and torso until the girls got old enough to wear bras.  Being strictly admonished by our parents to never let it get near water. Not even a drop of water.  Carefully keeping track of the supply of hearing aid batteries because we didn’t have shops open after 7 pm or on Sundays and if you ran out of batteries on a Saturday night, man, were you out of luck. Hey, we were deaf, we could deal, right? (Ha. I couldn’t.)

The battery compartment is the lower third of the back side, and the volume control is at top. To this day, I remember the engraved Zenith slogan, “The Royalty of hearing.”  Oh, we had a code of honor.  You just did not mess with the other kid’s hearing aid. Ever.  If we threw things at each other or were in fist-fights, we avoided the ear mold and the hearing aid. A blow to the ear mold (remember: rock hard) would result in a very bloody and painfully swollen ear and in being unable to wear it for several days, a week, until the swelling went down. And hearing aids were ex-pen-sive. No one wanted the combined wrath of both kids’ parents, the school staff and the principal crashing down on them. Misplace or lose one, and you never repeated that mistake again.

My first hearing aid, in 1957, was easily twice the size of this Zenith and its price tag ($250) was equivalent to seven or eight house payments. Much love and gratitude to this day for Uncle Russ and Aunt Francy Shobert for helping my parents by purchasing that hearing aid, which lasted until 1964. And that brown and gold Zenith lasted until 1976, when I got (and was liberated by) my very first behind-the-ear hearing aid – and molds were more flexible. By the way, hearing aids still don’t come cheap.

They gave me the gift of hearing. A gift and a sense, like breathing air, that I cannot live without.  While I respect the choice some friends have made to give up their hearing aids, I know that I cannot live without mine. I have it off at night. Some mornings I don’t put it on for several hours, enjoying the peace and quiet. But I can’t live without it.

I still feel sucker-punched by all of this. I can literally feel it in my gut. Tears came up to the surface as I revisited some of the memories here. When I first uploaded it, half the post vanished and that was like another blow.  Why? Why are the emotions and sensations so visceral and vivid nearly 50 years later? Maybe because this is my history, my own (and subjective) history, as opposed to the objective history of the Almanack above, among other reasons. It is part of who and what I am today.

And…? It was only $3 yesterday.

I wonder what Mother and Daddy, Aunt Francy and Uncle Russ would make of that.


  1. I love flea markets, Sue. Nothing like finding that something from your childhood is now labeled an antique to put a different perspective on things.

    My mother became quite hard of hearing as she aged. She refused to get a hearing aid, insisting they don’t work. Finally, at the age of 95 she agreed to give them a try. I will NEVER forget the smile on her face as the audiologist adjusted the levels on his computer and for the first time she could hear again. Filled with absolute wonder, like a little kid at Christmas. She only lived a few more months after that. No regrets about the expense, just gratitude she was able to hear during her final days.

    • Oh my…we tried to convince my mother for easily a year before her passing to get a hearing aid (you’ll understand when I say the neighbors knew exactly what TV shows she had on lol) but no go. Her hearing was good in some ways. How lovely that your mother got to hear again in her final days!!

  2. Sue,
    I could wile away the day just browsing through flea markets, sometimes bringing home special goodies other times just taking in the eye candy.
    Thanks for sharing such a personal story that brought all those memories from your visit to the flea market.

    • Eye candy is perfect, Sue! Usually I have to keep it short due to being at work at noon – but sometimes I take the entire day off and spend it there…and I come home one happy camper.

  3. Fabulous…simply fabulous. :)

  4. Wow, Sue! A fascinating glimpse into your past. Some healing for you here, I bet. Thank you for sharing.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your post here. I felt like I was right there with you as you made this discoveries of the hearing aid at the market and of all the memories it held. Thank you for sharing this piece of yourself with me.

    • Thanks, Michele! (And you’re welcome, too.) It was an interesting example of quantum physics, that time isn’t so linear as we perceive it to be.

  6. What a beautifully written story. I love swap meets and old stuff and walks down memory lane. So much love and gratitude written between those words. And how blessed to have aunts & uncles who can help out. I have also been very blessed to have generous people in my life and pray that when the time comes I can pay it forward. ♥

    • I have no doubt that you will find ways to pay it forward, Julie, and I’ll bet you’ve done it without realizing it. ;-)

  7. Such a beautifully written post, Susan! I love the fleas meself, and completely agree with the time travel aspect. Your personal story is so interesting to read, and conjures so much for you…I would have passed right by an item like that on a table, and it evoked so much for you. Thank you for sharing. Really a lovely post.

    • Siobhan, who needs HG Well’s time travel machine or TARDIS when we’ve got the fleas to do that for us?! ;-) Thanks for your lovely words.

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