I’ve been fitted up. And about time I hear the chorus wail. At the local hospital today they reached the final stages of fitting two spanking new digital hearing aids for me. Now don’t feel sorry for me, I’m not deaf nor profoundly hard of hearing, just deaf enough in the higher frequencies to disable consonants. My audio nerve gave up on them 5 years ago and lower frequencies live in a bucket of cotton wool too. The hearing aids amplify all the frequencies necessary for me to hear human speech although consonants will always be a memory. It was like being wired for sound in a sci fi film. A humming (allegedly) computer had wires leading out to my ears and a fancy box with speakers and microphones. I didn’t have to say if I could hear sounds of different pitches this time. A speaker made lots of gurgling and clicking noises and my hearing aid fed it back to the computer. Adjustments by the rather attractive woman operaative then took out the echoes and tinny sounds to make people sound human again. She said: “I’m afraid it will make weird noises.”
Afterwards I said: “They weren’t strange noises, that was the Vega3 dialect of Klingon. They are invading on Saturday morning.” She smiled, as if I were a silly little boy – ho hum.
She instructed me how to use the three programmed settings on my hearing aids. Normal conversation but which will pick up background noises too – handy for listening out for the postman bringing that letter from a publisher with a contract. A setting without the background noise for when the pub is too raucous now people shout and sing instead of sucking on suicide sticks. And a T-switch for when I’m in the cinema or a bank begging for a loan. She said they welcome suggestions for other programmable buttons. I said it would be handy to have a telepathy button then so much less misunderstanding would follow and so less wars. She smiled again. I was going to ask for a no-complaining button but that’s hardly original.
Now of course I realise that clocks have annoying ticks, although the tocks are tolerable. I walked out of the hospitable with my free NHS state-of-art hearing aids and happened to be a few yards behind two pram-shoving women. I switched my hearing aid to cut out sideways extraneous noise and I found I could hear what they were saying quite clearly.
“And he said are you sure and I said why the hell not and he said but you wouldn’t last week so I said that was last week so he said…” I switched off both hearing aids. Hearing aids plugged in but switched off make excellent earplugs.
A consequence of hearing as good as I do know is that I talk quieter. Not that I realised my voice had been raised these last muffled five years, but now my wife keeps asking me to speak up. Either I’m now too quiet or she needs a hearing aid. Hey, love want a second-hand hearing air? Going cheap cheep.