Ben got a second opinion. And a third. But they all said the same thing: a cochlear implant was his best option at this point, but they still couldn’t guarantee it would put a stop to the digression of his hearing ability. For all they knew, he could go through the pain and hassle and expense of the procedure only to end up right back here.
He did his research. He looked at all the options – how much they cost, and how he might be able to pay for them.
It didn’t look good.
Ben decided instead to try to will his hearing back. He kept the volume on his hearing aid high, but he lowered the volume on all the other devices in his life and refused to raise them. In conversation, he wouldn’t let himself ask someone to repeat something or admit he hadn’t heard them. He just focused harder on what they were saying and tried reading their lips.
Focusing did help to an extent, and he did learn a little about lipreading that way – almost enough for him to get along in conversation.
He knew people like Naomi were sick of shouting so he could hear them, so he stopped asking people to speak up. If he missed something they said, he just nodded and smiled.
“What was with you tonight?” Naomi asked when they were in the car on the way back from a dinner party.
“What do you mean?”
“Al kept talking to you about the Holocaust and you just kept nodding and smiling like an idiot. Is there something you find funny about the Holocaust?”
Ben frowned. “Is that what he was going on about?”
“Yes! How did you not get that? Was it something about the way he said “Holocaust” and “genocide” roughly one hundred times?”
“Don’t tell me.”
“Your hearing is getting worse and you still don’t want to get that implant.”
“You know we can’t afford it. And even if we could, it might not do anything. We could end up having spent all that money for nothing.”
Naomi paused, and that’s when Ben realized he was in trouble. If she was silent, she wasn’t arguing with him. If she wasn’t arguing with him that meant he was right. And that scared him more than he had realized.
“So what are you going to do?”
“Well, I’ve been teaching myself lipreading, which I thought was going pretty well until I recently found out I don’t know what it looks like when someone says ‘Holocaust’ or ‘genocide’,” said Ben. “I guess I’m going to have to learn sign language.”
Ben kept his eyes on the road, but out of the corner of his eye he saw Naomi nod her head up and down. “We can figure out how to make our TV show subtitles.”
“English subtitles. The last time I tried that I got Spanish subtitles and that won’t help me one bit.”
Naomi laughed softly.
“We’ll have to get one of those phones that writes down everything the other person says.”
“All right,” Naomi said after a beat. “Sign language lessons, subtitles on the TV, and a new phone. That doesn’t sound so bad.”
Ben had never loved her more than he did in that moment.