By Bill Williams

I met a young man a few years back who no doubt has added years to my life and life to my years. His name is Tom. Tom Bocchino. He deals in hearing aids, mostly. The “doctor” in front of his name says he deals in much more.

This, however, is about hearing aids. I have had experience with hearing aids. When they work, it’s like winning an Oscar. When they don’t, they are crab grass in the Garden of Eden. Hang in there while I bring you up to date.

The background is that it started with a game of basketball when I was in the eighth grade.

Out of nowhere came a fast-traveling basketball. It found a spot on my right ear and WHAMMO! The effect was that it blew out my eardrum and left me hurting and wanting. Eardrum was gone. In its place was a terrible roar.

I took the roar home and laid awake that night trying to imagine what life would be like from then on. Sleep soothed it, however, and in a few days life was almost normal. I didn’t tell my parents.

My life wasn’t totally fractured, however. Years later, a Charlotte surgeon crafted another eardrum from membrane behind my ear, attached it; and it worked.

It worked well for five years; but, then, it went away. Never to return.

So, enter for the first time Hearing Aid No. I. Not too good. Ditto No. 2. No. 3 was like listening to “O Sole Mio” through bank-vault doors.

It was somewhere in that timeframe that Dr. Tom Bocchino of ENT Carolina came upon the scene. He looked into my ears and mused. I hate it when they muse. It could mean that they are having trouble coming up with the right answer.

He admitted that there was a problem; even so, he kept on musing. He put me into an isolation booth (again) and turned some knobs and squeaky little noises appeared from somewhere.

He told me this time that my hearing in my good, left ear wasn’t bad but that my bad-right-ear hearing was in trouble. He told me what I needed, and a couple of weeks later I went home with two new aids. Except, one of them was not a hearing aid. That little fellow was an audio transmitter.

Sounds within that aid’s jurisdiction were shunted around to be handled by the helper on the other side of my head.

It took a little time to adjust. Under the new order, all right-side sounds had to use right ear for brain passage. Neat. Pass on. Let Brain figure out the rest.

That was a short while ago and I am in the good graces of Tom the miracle worker. He told me then that the aids I would take home were not the total answer; but that the answer was on the way. He was right. It came within the year.

Doctor Tom grinned as he turned up the volume and watched my smile brighten as the volume increased.

This was not a chance encounter with happiness. It had been planned for, directed, mapped.

He didn’t tell me how much better these two aids were than the old ones. He didn’t have to. It was like the time I found a shiny, brand-new quarter when I was a kid. It made everything right.

Jubilation all around.