Hearing Again

I've written a few times about my hearing in the past, mostly from the bemused side of the story that really was just a vocalisation of the self-pity I am unusually able to apply to myself. The last time I wrote about it was the first time the NHS had been involved as most of the time the loss had been managed by the company private doctor through the yearly Oil and Gas medicals.

The NHS, in it's wisdom, actually took it a little more seriously. Not surprising thinking back though - the Oil and Gas medical was worried about the loss of hearing at work, not the loss of hearing I've always had. The NHS made a decision to check me a little more thoroughly and then asked me if I'd thought about a hearing aid. I hadn't seriously thought about it, so I said I was interested.

A few months later and this past Thursday I went to the hospital and within 20 minutes was fitted out with my very first hearing aid and I'll tell you something right away - why didn't I ask about this sooner?

The key difference I've noticed is that my brain is struggling to recalibrate the difference in the sound. The quality of the hearing aid is pretty poor from a fidelity side - I'd imagine HD 24bit audio isn't really needed when the other side of it is zero hearing anyway. But what surprised me the most was the feeling of a slight delay behind the sound, like when you have a microphone transmitting to a speaker in the same room (like a baby monitor) - it is milliseconds, but the brain notices and is slowly working out how to correct for it.

But the magic thing is that within 48 hours I'd discovered I'd become so used to it taking it out at night before going to bed was like filling my left ear back up with gum. The dull and far away sounds that I got from the non-aid-filled ear was startling, and that the effect that the hearing aid has on my hearing is quite something. A friend "jumped" me at the local shop car park jovially only to discover the reason I almost karate chopped his head off in fright was that he'd used the amplified side to sneak on. The car makes new rumbling noises - Frank's barking is louder too. And the road we live beside is suddenly a bit of a nusiance rather than a little dull rumble in the background.

The Doctor applying the hearing aid asked if I was "ready" to wear one; Connie too had asked me as well, to see if there were any reservations with adding one to my ear. I hadn't thought about it really, but the fact remained that I'd always assumed that I'd need one, just not maybe when I was 31 years old. I guess it is like glasses - the idea of wearing them is fine until you actually realise that you have to wear them all the time. At least with glassess in most cases contacts can replace the glasses, and in severe cases laser treatment can fix your sight for a good chunk of time.

The hearing loss is not like that - there is a surgical procedure that the NHS used to carry out, but compared to the hearing aid it's incredibly high risk (you can lose all hearing entirely) and obviously far more expensive. So the realisation is that this isn't temporary, or a choice that I'll just put on going to work; this is a permanent change to my life and one that needed to have improved life benefits to make worthwhile. I'm not going to chop and change my hearing aid on a hourly basis to just suit my life - I'm wedded to it like I am to my very own body now, and looking back I slightly regret not going sooner and speaking to them about it. That being said, even though there is a permanency to this all, I am not worried about the rest of my life with one (or two, knowing how bad my right ear is now and the projected path that it will take).

Friends and family won't quite realise the importance of this, nor will the lay person, but for me this might be one of the most significant things to have happened in my life. Finally, after years, I might be able to hear properly (or at least better) and it can only get better over time as my brain adjusts and I get more used to it.

It's nice to be able to hear again. Or maybe, hear for the first time?