So, after years of smiling politely and nodding my head like an idiot in pubs when I didn’t have a bloody clue what someone had told me (apologies if you are one of those people) and exasperated looks when people say ‘Seriously…you can’t hear that car alarm?!’ I went for a free hearing test at Boots in February this year.
I’d thought I’d done quite well in my ‘Mr and Mrs’ style booth, pressing the button every time I heard a tone. I came out to a look of slight concern on the face of the woman who’d run the test. ‘I think we need to book you in for a more thorough assessment’. These initial results showed moderate to severe hearing loss in both ears which was a bit of a shock as I’d presumed that it wouldn’t be quite so bad. A further test 3 weeks later confirmed the initial results and the audiologist gave me an expensive hearing aid to try out. The improvement was impressive, the aural equivalent of switching from black & white to colour. The downside? I’d need to spend around £2000 to get my hands on a pair. He told me that the NHS models weren’t so good and they’d only give me one, which wouldn’t help me much. But I like to get a second opinion about my options and hate spending money unless I have to…so I went to the NHS.
A visit to the GP, a referral to the Ear, Nose and Throat clinic and from there a visit to the Audiology Dept this morning. Due to the nature of my job (lots of different environments) I’ve been given two hearing aids, a load of free batteries and a card to pick up more when I need them (thank you NHS) and am now 6 hours into this new soundscape.
I grew up with a Mum who was born profoundly deaf so wearing a hearing aid hasn’t been a particularly emotional challenge – but it surprised me that I did have a little wobble when I first learned how bad things were. I told myself I was being ridiculous, that no-one gets upset if they have a prescription for glasses and after that I was on an even keel again.
Walking back from the hospital through the Botanical Gardens in Sheffield almost made me sit on a bench and weep. The symphony of bird song I could hear was so beautiful. Later on my walk I heard those noises that bin lorries make when they reverse, even when I couldn’t see them. I heard the pavement scuffing noises from the shoes of the man walking ahead of me. And when I got home I put on Ryley Walker’s ‘Primrose Green’ LP and heard all sorts of jangly chimes that had hitherto been hidden from me. It feels like I’ve got a Foley artist installed behind my eyes to be my bespoke sound editor. At the moment there’s a slight tinny quality to my own voice but I should soon get used to that.
Why am I writing this? I suppose it’s in case anyone else out there thinks that they’re missing a lot of what people are saying, are always putting the subtitles on or are just feeling that something’s not quite right. Don’t be frightened, go and get a hearing test and see if hearing aids can help you. I wish I’d done it earlier – there are a lot of nights out, films and conversations I’d have enjoyed so much more. I’m really looking forward to my new lease of life.