I think I mentioned before that I had two exciting decisions to make when I was choosing hearing aids? And that hearing aids could easily be carved out of solid diamond, given how much they cost? Well, my second decision was to choose between three different grades of hearing aid, at, of course, three different prices.
The first type, costing approximately as much as a two-week family holiday in a five-star hotel in the Lake District, would do what it says on the hearing-aid tin; it would amplify sound to make it easier for me to hear. The hearing aids could be adjusted for my own hearing, so that, for example they would amplify higher sounds more than lower sounds. And they also had different settings, so that they responded differently depending on whether there was a lot of background noise or not. This, however, they did not do automatically; they had to be manually adjusted
I have to say I was not keen on this idea. Along with wearing your reading glasses on a dangly chain around your neck, few things are as aging as fiddling with your hearing aids. On to the next choice! These came in at a price-point which would otherwise enable me to take the family to a luxury villa complex on the Costa Del Mar for a fortnight. Imagine the joy on Jane and John’s little faces when they find out where they’re going! And imagine the joy on my little face when Matthew explained that these babies were fully automatic; they could work out what sound environment they were in and adjust themselves accordingly. Not only that, but they could recognise human speech and, get this, talk to each other.
So if, for instance, I am driving my car and talking to my passenger, the left-hand hearing aid knows there is a human voice next to it. Accordingly, it shouts across to my other hearing aid “Oy, Stuart! Got a human voice this side. Whatchew got?” And the right hand hearing aid will reply “Nothing this side ‘cept background noise, mate. Want me to turn meself down?” “If you would, mate. An’ I’ll just turn meself up a bit”.
Of course, they don’t really communicate like that. I have no idea how they communicate, probably by radio waves which are frying my brain and will turn me into a drooling loon in my dotage, but hey! It’s well worth it to be able to hear my passenger saying ” Um, wait, I’m not sure whether ….. Oh, it’s that one.” “Which one?” “That one by the pub.” “The pub we just passed?” “Yes.” “Right……”
And then there was the third variety of hearing aid, which not only had all the bells and whistles that the others did, but had one added feature. Now, remember that at this point, I did not know whether, or how fast my heating was deteriorating. If it was getting worse, there was the prospect of losing all hearing at the top of the range, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. If you have no hearing, no level of amplification will provide it. However, these hearing aids could do something astonishingly clever. If I did lose my hearing at the top of the range, these aids could be set to lower noises within that range so that I could hear them. Blimey! No matter that for that money I could take little Jane and John to Rio to see the World Cup, first class all the way. This was a non-starter because 1. The World Cup wasn’t on that year 2. In any case, I can’t stand football and 3. Jane, John and their dad are all entirely imaginary and the cats don’t like foreign travel (They’re not keen on the food). Type three it was!
So, having decided to spend shedloads of money on my hearing aids, did I waltz out of Amplifon in Wigmore Street able to hear a mouse farting over by Monument? No, dear reader, I did not.