Sunday, July 8, 2012


Hearing aids, open, with batteries showing
This story is about the way we/people accustom ourselves to our loss of hearing. If it is a gradual process, we don’t notice it. We merely and often unconsciously adapt our lifestyle. Friends and family often do notice the changes, but not the reason for them.

A lot of people need to begin wearing spectacles between 45 and 55 when their eyesight begins to be affected by aging. The same process affects our hearing. Listening to loud music and films, being around heavy machinery, shooting, hunting and explosions generally, also have the capacity to damage human hearing.

My hearing loss is probably due to loud music, heavy machinery and a few explosions. I did first start to notice it in my forties, when I couldn’t hear the words in a song on the radio. I forgot there was a time when I might have heard them and learned to enjoy the music without the lyrics. It wasn’t such a big deal to me, I’d always enjoyed instrumental music more and anyway, I said to myself, if you want the words, get them in print.

I started having to ask people to repeat themselves, or speak up. An irritating practice, apparently. Body language and lip reading are now well within my skills range though they don’t always help.

Some people show very little emotion while they speak. Many Australians hardly move their lips. Some people speak so quietly as to be completely inaudible to a person hard-of-hearing. I learned the Foxtrot Bravo Tango alphabet to encourage call centre telephonists to spell things out for me.

The famed cocktail-party-deafness stopped me going to movies. I preferred waiting until films came out on DVD to watch them on TV, not more than two metres from the set, the volume up, and with the possibility of subtitles.

Crowd events in halls with bad acoustics became a waste of money. Then all crowd events fell by the wayside. Workshops, movement classes and any event with women as the main speakers were torture, because my hearing loss is mainly in the upper registers. Most sound systems make things worse.

I was already known for interrupting, I think, often I couldn’t hear whether friends had finished what they were saying, and couldn’t tell from their body language. I started making inappropriate replies. I’m guilty of a couple of total conversation stoppers and still people tell me they had no idea I have a problem with hearing.

After a fling with influenza and pneumonia my hearing nose-dived, and I couldn’t even hear a fellow choir member singing next to me. What amazed me about that now is that I didn’t just excuse myself and leave. I wouldn’t have thought twice about explaining if I couldn’t see properly.

If this story rings one of your bells, have your hearing checked out. 

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