The first thing that happened during my consultation with Matthew was a little chat about what would happen. I explained that I couldn’t hear people, and he explained that he would carry out a hearing test, tell me if hearing aids would help, and then, if they would, we could talk about “options”. Ah, sweet metaphor! But no matter. I had told Matthew that I didn’t hear well, and he had responded as though that was a perfectly normal issue, and not as though I was some weirdo with a embarrassing self-imposed problem. I was in!
The hearing test was actually kind of fun. Matthew hung a small wireless box around my neck which had two earpieces. Through these, he played various sounds via his computer and I had to respond depending on when and whether I heard a sound. Some of them were easy, some of them much harder, teeny bat-squeaks deep in my brain which it was genuinely hard to distinguish from the buzzing of blood in my veins. Once the test was finished, Matthew showed me the results
It turned out I have a classic age-related hearing-loss, just 20 years earlier than he would expect to see it. Basically, my hearing is generally somewhat poor, but worse in the higher registers, which explains why it’s often women I find harder to hear. It also explains why things are harder in noisy places; when people are trying to make themselves heard in noisy places, their voices will often go up. Even if they’re speaking louder, they’re getting into the registers where I have less hearing, so it cancels out. Asked why this might have happened Matthew couldn’t say. I’ve never been one for clubs or concerts and I’ve never worked with loud machinery. It could be something as simple as a virus. However, I mentioned that I was born a month premature, and he said that it might well be that; a lot of premature babies have hearing problems. Vindication! I’m deaf, but it’s Not My Fault!
So then we got onto the options. Here there was good news and bad news. The good news was that hearing aids could definitely help me. Hooray! The bad news (although Matthew didn’t couch it as such) is that hearing aids cost about as much, pound for pound, as gold, if not slightly more.
This is due, amongst other things, to the extremely clever technology involved. For me, since I have a considerable amount of hearing remaining, Matthew recommended a hearing aid which sits behind the ear with a fine wire connecting to an ear bud which actually goes into the ear. The ear-bud is tiny, and would allow a considerable amount of sound to still enter my ear. Had my hearing been worse, I could have had an in-ear hearing aid which is shaped to your ear and can be pretty much invisible.
With this type of hearing aid, there were two exciting decisions to be made. The first, which was fun, was to do with colour. There are an astonishing array of colours, including pink, purple, metallic shades, and even patterns. I believe you can even get leopard or zebra print, should you so desire, or even, perhaps, if you are a hard-of-hearing leopard or zebra. I quite liked the thought of metallic purple hearing aids, but in the end went for brown to match my hair, a tactic which has worked well in that most people have absolutely no idea I am wearing them, even if they see me every day.