During our appointment to fit and adjust my hearing aids, the second issue that Matthew made me aware of was the need to acclimatise myself to having something in my ears all day. Now, the ear-buds on my hearing aids are tiny. Much, much smaller than my little finger nail, smaller than the business end of a cotton-wool bud. And they don’t go right into the ear, they sit just inside the ear canal.
Nevertheless, when a person first starts wearing hearing aids, it can feel extremely odd. Matthew explained that the key to success is persistence. Yes, it will feel odd, but start by wearing them for a couple of hours a day and build up little by little. As you do, it will gradually start to feel normal. And finally, he wanted me to keep a “hearing diary”. For two weeks I was to wear the hearing aids every day, building up little by little, and each day I was to note down briefly how it had gone; when I could hear well, what situations caused problems, any other issues which I noticed. This would help him to adjust the hearing aids perfectly for me when I returned in two weeks’ time.
He also showed me how to turn my hearing aids on and off (you store them turned off, so they don’t waste battery life), how to distinguish between the left hearing aid and the right hearing aid (differently adjusted), change the batteries, and recognise the sounds they play when they’re turned on (sort of a Microsoft jingle) and when the batteries are about to expire (a single firm, low “Bong!”; the first few times I heard this, it was extremely disconcerting. I’d look around to see what had caused it and only realise when I saw that nobody else had heard anything that it had come through my hearing aid.) And then he got me to put my hearing aids in, gave me a free packet of batteries, and sent me out into the world….
Now, the first thing I should say here is that hearing aid hearing is not like normal hearing. The best way I can describe it is to say that it’s like the soundtrack to a movie. You know how, in a movie, when a hero or heroine is walking at night down a deserted city street in the rain, and a single car drives past, and you hear, very loud and clear, the swish of the tyres on the wet road? Well, it’s like that. Normally, when a car drives past, we don’t distinguish between the different noises that make up that particular event; we just hear “car”. But wearing hearing aids for the first time is like being in a movie. It was raining, and I could hear the swish of the car tyres and the pattering of the rain on my umbrella. Rain makes a noise! Who knew? I could hear the clack of my own feet on the pavement. I could hear people talking as they passed me and the creak of the shop doors on Wigmore Street. It was amazing!