Off Kilter

For the past five years I’ve known in depth that my hearing has been graciously getting worse and worse. I have known since I was a child of course, my mum recently confirming that my hearing loss has been in place since I was a very young child – Connie’s eternal annoyance at my difficulty in hearing her speaking when the TV is on, or when we are in the car driving, is shared by my mum who had a similar issue, but when I was just three years old. I had, for years, had constant checks on my hearing as part of working offshore – one of the major hazards of working in an industrial environment. A few months ago, on a trip into plant at my current job, I sought out some hearing protection with the slightest bit of scorn from the other operators.

In day to day life over the past five or so years, I’ve not noticed any discernible difference, not until this past few months. I can’t tell you why it has got worse (assuming it has) but I have noticed, and so has Connie, that my hearing and my ability to concentrate on voices whilst there are other noises in the background. A really obvious example is when I am running the girls’ bath – I simply can’t make out what Joni is saying to me when the water is running or when Connie and I try to have a conversation. In the car it hasn’t been as bad, oddly – not sure why, maybe just the difference in acoustics from the Yeti to the Passat, but in normal day to day life even having the extractor fan on in the kitchen has meant a lack of ability to hear the girls

And, as I say, bar the usual “What? I can’t hear you, sorry!” chat, I find that it doesn’t normally bother me. Sometimes though it can be quite isolating – like being out a restaurant and maybe just sitting with the adults to my left and Joni across from me, I can’t hear anyone talking, nor can I tell if someone has started talking to me.

The last time I wrote about this, back in 2009, I mentioned that I had considered looking up Sign Language and learning it. I did – and the site I subsequently bought the course from lost my details and someone fleeced two grand from my bank account. I still consider it something I’d like to add to my bow – watching a lot of Mister Tumble with Joni has lead me to learn quite a few sign language phrases, and she has learned them too, so it might be a good idea to do that again.

The one thing I’ve noticed that has caused an effect daily has been music – any music with a pronounced stereo L-R split is extremely noticeable. Something that has a few tinkering keys and synths over to the far right, I don’t mind, but full blown vocals with shifting pans and a percussive element to the far side of the “space” always feels odd and, at times, can even make me feel unbalanced, kind of like a type of vertigo. I have for a as long as I can resisted the temptation to change the settings on the phone – my old iPhone was good for one thing, as at the hardware level you could set up a L-R balance change, which meant that the sound would be compensated. It is something that feels weird, to hear music that should sound like it’s in the middle of your head and is actually quite a few “inches” off to the right. It has been more pronounced recently, I assume a combination of whatever is causing it to be or feel worse causing that, so much so that I have taken the before unprecedented step of forcing the phone to output all audio as Mono, which is a shame as the tracks that do feature it well will be changed because of it.

I have made an appointment with the doctors to find out what is going on and if things have got seriously worse since I last had my check up, so we will see. If nothing has seriously changed, and it’s just my awareness of it, then that’s annoying, but better than the worst case – that I am finally, after years of putting it off and making it worse when going to concerts, going deaf.