Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 28, 2013

Ed Hungness: The bionic man is back

Special to the Record-Eagle

— Those readers who remember 1974 might recall a fictional television show titled, “The Six-Million Dollar Man.”

Its main character was ace test-pilot Steve Austin, who had the misfortune of nearly killing himself in a crash landing. The government realized that they had the technology to “rebuild” this man, augmenting his broken body with cybernetic parts. The result of the surgery was a new Steve Austin with superhuman strength and speed.

Austin was put back on the government payroll as a secret operative and fought injustices wherever found. He became the updated Superman, a hero to both young and old. Weekly, fans were glued to their television sets watching Steve catch the bad guys.

In 1974, I was 29 years old and felt more like Steve Austin than I do today. It is hard to imagine that 40 years have slipped by since then and I no longer look or perform anything like the Six-Million Dollar Man.

Through the decades, time has taken its toll on my aging parts.

The first to go was my 20-20 eyesight. It didn’t happen overnight. I began to notice difficulties when reading the classified ads or looking up numbers in a phone book. It took awhile but I eventually came to the realization that the Reader’s Digest was available in a large-print-version for a reason.

My first pair of glasses were only necessary for “small print.” After awhile, I realized that they were also required when locating the slot on a woodscrew for the screwdriver blade or when driving a nail with a hammer.

Today I wear tri-focal lenses that allow me to see far, near and in between. That’s OK; I always thought that glasses made people look more intelligent.

On my 40th birthday, I had a full head of wavy brown hair. By the time I turned 50, there were hints of gray “highlights” present. I’m not sure what happened, perhaps it was something in the water or my concerns over college bills owed for the kids’ tuition. Looking back on it, the gray wasn’t so bad. At least it was hair.

Today I ask Roger, my barber, why he still charges me full price for my haircut. Since there is less to cut, my haircut should be cheaper. His reply is always that “he needs to be more careful with what I have left.” That’s OK; Gray thinning hair gives a man a “distinguished” look.

Shortly after my 50th birthday, I was frequently reminded that I had the television’s volume set too high. The word “huh” crept into my vocabulary and I had difficulty following conversations while dining in noisy restaurants. The kids would say, “Dad, turn your hearing aid up!” and I didn’t have a hearing aid.

Two thousand dollars later I was wearing a digital, programmable, behind- the-ear hearing aid. I began complaining again about how loud the commercials were on TV and started watching for sales on the little batteries that keep the bionic man hearing the world around him. That’s OK; with the hearing aid, I really did have selective hearing.

Presently I am flirting with 69 years of life experience. My mother, who is in her 100th year, says that I am “still just a kid.” I suppose that from her perspective, I always will be just that.

Recently the old hearing aid was put away in its box, stashed in the nightstand as an emergency spare. It has been replaced with not one, but two, state-of-the-art, Bluetooth compatible, super-bionic hearing aids. I now talk hands-free on my cell phone and only I hear the other person speaking.

Bluetooth technology allows me to control the television volume broadcasted directly to my hearing aids, independent of the volume heard by others.

Without disturbing anyone, I am capable of listening privately to music broadcast from a radio or computer.

Best of all, I’m no longer missing things that are happening around me.

Move over Steve Austin, the new bionic man is back!

Ed Hungness and his wife became full-time residents of Fife Lake in 2005 after Ed’s retirement. He can be reached at or by mail at P.O. Box 57, Fife Lake, MI 49633.