There’s no elegant way to put this, so I’ll just say it; I have a hearing aid.
The hearing in my left ear has been going downhill every since, in a moment of not thinking before I acted (also referred to as ‘the teenage years’), I fired my friend’s deer rifle while standing next to a brick wall. For those of you unfamiliar with firearms, allow me to elucidate:
Imagine you’re whacking tennis balls around. You toss one up in the air, bat it with your racquet and it flies harmlessly to the other end of the court. Now do the same thing standing three feet away from the side of your house. Now imagine doing that with a small cannon ball. That’s what the shockwave of a .306
feels like when it rebounds back at you from close range.
This unfortunate oversight concerning the laws of physics left me feeling as if someone had slugged the side of my head with a snow shovel. My ear rang like a fire alarm for about three days before settling into the steady hum of a dial tone that has never gone away.
I’ve compensated for this mostly by having a succession of wives and girlfriends translate for me, but lately it was getting to the point where we couldn’t turn the telly up any louder without risking an
ASBO. So I agreed to a hearing aid.
A hearing aid, if you think about getting one at all, is always something you think you’ll be getting later, like an
OAP bus pass or a hip replacement. It’s certainly not something I thought about getting now, and especially not from the Nation Health Service.
The first time I went to the NHS to have my hearing checked, the doctor accused me of wasting his time. “If you can hear, why should I test your hearing? Come back when you can’t hear and you can have a hearing aid!” Once we moved beyond that jolly prognosis, I was sent for a second opinion. This doctor agreed that my hearing did, indeed, require some assistance beyond continually asking my wife “what did he say?” but I was informed by the hearing specialist that it wouldn’t do any good to put me on The List for a hearing aid because, even in the unlikely event they got to me, there weren’t any available.
Therefore, I was happily surprised to receive a letter (eighteen months later) telling me to report to the local hospital and even more grateful to find hearing technology had moved on from the ear trumpet, even on this side of the Atlantic. The gadget the fetching, young audiologistess showed me was tiny and digital and would attach to my ear via a clear plastic tube inserted through an ear-mould. The ear mould,
she told me, would be made from a life-cast of my actual ear. She then squirted liquid plastic into my ear canal, which damped her appeal somewhat.
A week later, I was back in her office and fitted with the final product. Wearing the device made me feel as if I was underwater, and listening to her through those speakers you use when visiting friends and relatives who are wearing orange jumpsuits and sitting on the other side of the bullet proof glass.
I suppose I could look at it another way, and say it makes me feel like a secret service agent receiving top-secret commands through his earpiece, or a super-hero Cyborg man whose bionic implants give him super hearing powers. But the truth is, it just makes me feel old.
Hearing aids are so closely associated with the chronologically gifted that I was surprised it didn’t come with a complementary
Zimmer Frame. I'm only fifty-one, and still looking forward to my second childhood--hell, I haven't even left
my first one yet--so why have I joined the codger brigade, sitting around fiddling with an electronic earplug so I don't miss any pithy comments from
The Archers or Coronation Street.
That said, it really does make a world of difference. This won’t make sense to you if you have good hearing, but suddenly, everything is ‘centered’ which is mildly disorientating when you’re used to sounds coming at you from the right. As a bonus, everyone stopped mumbling and began speaking clearly, something I wish they had started doing twenty years ago, and our neighbors no long know what we’re watching on TV.
The only downside is, I can no longer justify not understanding someone because I can't hear them properly; I have to admit I just simply don't know what they're
rabbiting on about.
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