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Oh, sweet relief. Himself ’s mother has got hearing aids.
“Why are you shouting?” he said at dinner a year or two ago.
I glared at him meaningfully.
“Because your mother cannot hear,” I stage whispered, although I could have spoken at normal volume and she wouldn’t have heard.
It was true. It took him a while to realise it, her even longer, but I have past form: I have deaf relatives.
I know the drill. I know the increasing volume, the shouted telephone calls, the frustration, and the misunderstood snatches of conversation which get coloured in by a brain trying to make sense of a world with ever less information available.
I know the months of denial that can stretch into years and I’ve seen the creeping isolation for the hard of hearing. I know that deafness is less understood, less appreciated, than fading vision, I know that few concessions are made for the hard of hearing.
I know it’s more complex to fix too, because a pair of glasses is much easier to source than the tiny nugget of mind-blowing technology that is a hearing aid. They can be prohibitively expensive too.
Yet finally, at 86, with a friendly nudge from an audiologist, Mrs C has finally accepted the truth: she has severe hearing loss. Hearing aids have been purchased. However, I know, too, from experience that this is only the first battle won…
The change may not be as instantaneous as she’d hope: a hearing aid might not fix hearing with the ease that new specs immediately sharpen vision. The brain is actually the main hearing organ, not the ears (they’re just the tools) and so the longer hearing loss is disregarded, the more the sound synapses wither.
It’ll improve with time, but only if hearing aids become as second nature as underwear, worn every day whether home alone or out and about, allowing the brain to readjust to a sound-rich world, to re-remember how to analyse the information going in.
So listen up, everybody’s grandma: hearing aids are not meant only for special occasions, for restaurants and parties, but for every possible waking moment.
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