Monday, 27 February 2017

You don’t know what it feels like! (2)

Having established that I did have a hearing loss, even though it wasn’t significant I decided to bite the bullet and get hearing aids (privately at that stage  – not through the NHS). Modern digital hearing aids can be quite small and as my hair covers my ears, I wasn’t worried about the cosmetic effect.

They took very little getting used to but I only wore them when I needed to (mistake) I also found that if I went to concerts I had to take them out as there was huge feedback (whistling).  It did have a facility for the induction loop – just a light pressure on the aid did the trick.  You would be surprised how few theatres have a loop system installed – some you have to get a gadget from the box office and hang it around your neck and point it at the stage.  I think not!!  I had stopped going to the Globe Theatre in London as they do not use microphones and if characters talked facing upstage I couldn’t hear.  I was amazed some time after I got my hearing aids and went along as it was a group visit (and I knew the play very well) to find that they have a Loop induction installed.  Brilliant.

When I gave up full-time work and the audiologist told me that my aids were reaching the end of their life-span and how much they were going to cost to replace I moved to the NHS which has been amazing.  My new aids even had a programme for music so I could listen without feedback.

How do you know what it feels like? You don’t. If perhaps you wear glasses, perhaps even only for reading as you got older, you put the glasses on and you have normal vision.  Hearing aids are not the same.  You will never have normal hearing again. You have to come to terms with this.

There are unintended consequences too and you don’t know what it feels like.  This is when I would like to have a virtual reality app that a person with normal hearing can use to know what we are hearing.  The hearing aid magnifies the noise of someone turning the pages of the newspaper, eating crisps or crunching a carrot.  As someone who reacts negatively to this at the best of times it is hell.  I once decreed that there shouldn’t be anything crunchy on the table for meetings as the sound of people munching through crisps might drive me to violence.

Of course hearing continues to decline gradually and I am ever grateful to the audiologists and the NHS for their attention, my free hearing aids and batteries.  I also learned that I needed to wear them all the time to retrain the brain.  I can’t listen through earphones to an ipod (there is a Bluetooth gadget you can wear around your neck but it didn’t work for me) so I bought my Amazon Dot with a speaker that I can carry around the house. I read on the train instead of listening to music and I am aware of my surroundings when I walk, as I don’t have earphones clamped to my ears.  The best thing is that, as someone who is noise sensitive, I can take them out at night and it is very peaceful.  Not all bad.

I have no idea what it is like and cannot possibly speak for people with severe hearing loss – mine is not that bad, although a bit beyond “normal for my age”.

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