For years I’ve been saying inappropriate things. Sometimes people noticed, sometimes not. It probably wasn’t obvious most of the time *hopes*. As with everything, you find ways to cope – lip reading, nodding, watching others- a bright smile, laughter, anything to help you join in. But the truth is, you often feel you’re observing life through plate glass. And, absurdly, you don’t admit it because at that in-between age of fifty-something, you may not be young but you are definitely not old. (However old you are, no one wants to feel it, do they?) But, these words, perhaps more than many others, make you feel about 109: I’m a bit deaf. There, I’ve said it.
I’ve had endless tests and a few operations. I’ve been prescribed steroids for every opening in my head which I shove in determinedly, night and day. They help the sinuses and the asthma but not the hearing. My rare condition, I was told, would not be helped with conventional hearing aids. I would have to learn to live with it. I shrugged. I was already living with it. Lots of people have worse.
But last time I went to Charing Cross Hospital, they had news. I was told I might be helped by a bone implanted hearing aid. I could trial a hairband version, the audiologist said, and see how I got on.
When she first put it on me, I nearly cried. Not only could I hear her quiet voice, but the computer humming, the clock ticking, what people were saying in the next room. It was incredible. Is this what most people experienced?
This is how it works. A speaker is attached to a hair band under which there’s a titanium button. The button, which will soon be implanted in my head, transmits the sound directly into both ear drums through my bones. I’ve had gradual hearing loss for so long that I had no idea what the world sounded like. Now I can hear birds, the wind, the sound of my feet. Occasionally, I look at the family in terror. “What’s that?”
“It’s the boiler, Mum (or the fridge or an aeroplane)” It turns out the world is quite a noisy place.
My long term condition won’t go. I’ll continue to get infections because it turns out my body is as paranoid as my mind can sometimes be. It thinks it’s being constantly invaded, but my immune system is attacking itself. You need to calm down, I tell it. It shrugs. Live with it, it replies. Lots of people have worse.
This is true. There all kinds of loss and this sort may seem trivial compared to some. Life is no respecter of persons. The apparently random nature of blessing and condemnation might seem cruel and unmerciful at times. I often mention this to God, who I passionately believe in, despite his tendency not to answer my questions. I remind him about the floods and the government and the Syrian children and another friend diagnosed with cancer. He just listens and tells me to turn my hearing aid up.
(Go…give…help…pray. I say that I asked ‘Why?‘ not ‘How?’ And point out it’s a risky way of dealing with things, using us. He agrees but reminds me we are many and we are his body on earth, so better get going.
You’ve got it. Now be it – a hearing aid. It’s a point.
So, rejoice. For wind and trees and the sound of birds. For the click of the door, the rattle of rain. For conversation and Radio 4. And music and TV and the cinema. For the tiny suck of surprise made by daffodils when they flower in a cold wind.
You can’t hear that? Oh.
Perhaps you need a hearing aid 😉