News and views from the heart of England - Issue 3    © David Smith 2018

Comments welcome:

Am I hearing right?

As a result of Meniere’s Disease, I have suffered quite severe deafness over the years. It is not ‘simple’ deafness either, if, indeed there is any such thing. Rather than general loss of high or low frequencies, which, I imagine, are fairly easily remedied with digital hearing aids, MD causes random destruction of the hair cells that pick up air vibration, via the bones of the middle ear, that the brain turns into usable sounds. The result for me – and the same probably applies to most MD deafness – is large amounts of distortion and fragmentation. Sounds are never clear. There are always little shrieks and whistles attached to any sound, often great degrees of muffling. It often sounds like the old days when we used to have to listen to Radio Luxembourg using a poorly tuned valve radio, where the signal would fade in and out, with frequent whoops and shrieks as if the tuner knob could never stick on the right setting. And listening via a poor telephone connection at that. Despite the best service from either NHS or private audiologists, and the most delicate and sensitive digital hearing aids, we all have to accept that our hearing is irreversibly damaged. We’ll never again hear our children or spouses speak clearly to us. It is a life of constant effort and concentration.

For me, one of the biggest and saddest losses was the ability to hear music clearly. I can still hear most of the sounds through my hearing aid, but it is out of tune, discordant, and usually plain unpleasant. A cacophony of sound, and it is normally better to accept this and not make the effort. A sad loss indeed.

I have seen recent reports of a deaf woman attempting to sue the promoter of a concert because she couldn’t hear the lyrics clearly, and an interpreter wasn’t provided. What on earth did she expect? Sometimes you just have to accept that there are some things you can no longer do, rather than expect everything to be provided for you. If she is deaf, why on earth did she waste money on buying tickets for something she should have known would be less than successful for her? We all have to learn to deal with disappointment or our own limitations. If we are deaf, we don’t simply have the ‘right’ to expect perfect performances.