When I started out on this blog back in ’08 I made a passing observation about my age, having noticed I was increasingly lifting my glasses to read the date on my watch. Not long afterwards I upgraded to varifocals. Now I have another upgrade to report: I have acquired hearing aids.
It was not an easy transition. On the face of it, why wouldn’t getting a pair of hearing aids be just like getting glasses? You can even get them from opticians these days. But it’s a much bigger deal and it’s taken me at least two years to get over my… embarrassment.
I’ve endured tinnitus in my right ear for four or five years now and I had a clear diagnosis of hearing loss in late 2018, but couldn’t bring myself to give hearing aids a try. However, I’ve grown tired of manoeuvring myself into position in meetings, turning my better left ear towards conversants and, as often as not, cupping it to hear questions from students. And my family have been losing patience with me for not noticing that they’ve spoken, or wanting to turn up the TV or turn on the subtitles. It was time to listen to what they – and my ears – were telling me.
When I finally went back to Specsavers a couple of weeks ago, the audiologist told me that I was ahead of the pack. Maybe he was just being nice, but apparently most men wait about 10 years before asking for help. How typical of us.
Lockdown probably made the decision easier because I’m working from home and less likely to be out and about. Most of my interactions with colleagues and friends are straight to camera so my ears are less in view. Even if I do turn my head, social distancing from the barber over the last few months means that the little pods tucked behind my ears are largely hidden from view.
I’m still adjusting to a brighter world of sound. I am hearing more and finding it easier to keep up with conversation. My voice sounds stranger to me, somehow sharper and more metallic, and my footfall on our creaking kitchen floor cracks my head like never before. I’m told my brain will accommodate my augmented reality and to help with that the hearing aids are slowly increasing the gain over the first three weeks. Given that my disability is age-related, it is some comfort to know that my body still has some capacity to respond to the world.
The nerd in me is enjoying the Bluetooth capabilities of my new best buds. I can now accept a call on my iPhone by tapping on a button just behind my ear. Music from my phone is also routed directly to my ear drums – no headphones required. These little techno-joys help to offset some of the discomfiture of my confrontation with infirmity, even if I’m still not sure about my calendar pinging right inside my head to remind be of an upcoming Zoom call. Which I guess is a reminder that all of our realities have been ‘augmented’ these days.