DARTMOUTH — After years of missing words and sometimes even whole conversations, not to mention bits of theater and film productions, Anthony Cabeca can hear every word.

“I got along, but I was missing a lot,” Cabeca said. “People were laughing and I was wondering why.”

That’s no longer the case.

Cabeca, an Army veteran, was recently fitted with a hearing aid at Beltone in Dartmouth.

“What a big, big difference,” Cabeca said.

Cabeca, like many suffering from a gradual loss of hearing, didn’t get help right away. In fact, it had been years. “Quite a few years,” Cabeca said.

“There’s sort of a stigma,” said Hearing Instrument Specialist Joanne Gillespie. “They think it makes you look old or somehow inferior.”

Gillespie said the stigma seems to affect mainly older people. She said people in their 40s and 50s are more accepting of hearing aids.

“They don’t want to wear them,” she said. “They don’t want to see them.”

Hopefully things are changing. Gillespie said today’s hearing aids are much smaller and much more technologically advanced.

Using wireless technology, Gillespie very quickly programmed Cabeca’s hearing aids using a computer program until he said it was “nice and clear.”

Cabeca may have been in some denial over needing a hearing aid, but his wife Priscilla was aware of the problem for a long while. There’s the matter of her having to repeat herself and that very loud television in the house.

“He never answers,” Priscilla said lovingly. “He never hears me. He tells me I’m mumbling.”

The Cabecas, married for 53 years in June, have a son and daughter and six grandchildren.

“I tell many a patient that I’ve saved plenty of marriages,” Gillespie said.

Gillespie said that as a veteran, Cabeca likely lost his hearing due to “noise exposure.” He served for six years during the Vietnam War including a year and a half in Germany, and some reserve time.

“A lot of our vets have hearing loss,” Gillespie said. “It’s a very slow process.”

Cabeca also worked in noisy environments including as a sander at Revere Copper and as a loom fixer at the former Berkshire Hathaway Mill, both of New Bedford, and as an independent landscaper.

Gillespie met Cabeca during a Beltone lunch and learn session. When she discovered that he wouldn’t be able to afford a hearing aid, she applied to the Beltone Hearing Care Foundation — a nonprofit charitable organization — and got him approved for help.

The price of a hearing aid varies widely but can cost $2,500 or more.

“I would love to be able to hear my family once again and join in on the conversations and laughs,” Cebeca wrote in a letter to the foundation.

Now, his wish has become a reality.

“I think it’s just right now,” Cabeca said.

To learn more about Beltone, visit beltone.com or 435D State Road, or call 866-521-7164.

Email Deborah Allard at dallard@heraldnews.com.