The other day, while I was listening to Mama’s light hearted chat about various aspects of her ongoing corporeal decay, she suddenly broke off and assumed an alarming air of gravity.
“Now tell me,” she said, fixing me with a steely gaze and causing me to brace myself for something potentially worrying. Fortunately, her question was quite harmless and I was able to unbrace myself and finish swallowing my mouthful of tea immediately. “How did you get your, your…er, your hearing aids?” she said. “Are they from the NHS?”
I thought she was taking an interest in my hearing, but it turned out that she thought she might need hearing aids herself and wanted to know how to go about getting them. I was delighted to have an opportunity to share my comprehensive knowledge of NHS audiology referral procedures, but wasn’t sure whether it would be needed. Knowing Mama’s lifelong propensity for poking cotton buds into her ear canals, the description of her current hearing loss sounded rather more like a bad case of earwax, so I advised her to get her ears checked by her GP. While I was talking, I noticed her leaning worryingly from side to side in her notoriously unstable motorised armchair, and I wondered what she was doing.
“Have you got two? Have you got them in just now?” she said, squinting unsuccessfully at each side of my distant head, before correcting herself. “Oh, silly me!” she tutted, “Of course you’ve got them on, you’d need to be wearing them to get the cheap train ticket.”
I marvelled at the pensioner logic that stated I had hearing aids for the purpose of getting a discount on the train, rather than to hear things, and noted that here was yet another great thing about hearing loss I’d overlooked. I could even extend Mama’s logic to reassert my superiority when licking my wounds in bad hearing situations. The next time someone annoyed me by saying, “It’s really noisy in here, you’re lucky you can take your hearing aids out!”, I could say “Lucky I can take them out? Lucky? Pah! That’s absolutely nothing compared to the 1/3 off discount on the train for hearing aid users! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, if you think hearing loss is some kind of disadvantage!”
Mama was already in possession of a pensioner railcard, therefore didn’t need a visible pair of hearing aids to get a discount on the train.
“If it was me, I’d want the tiny wee ones that go right inside your ears”, she announced, doing an unconscious mime of how she imagined putting them in would go. She missed out the bit where you drop them on the floor several times, before treading on them by accident. Having witnessed her arthritic dexterity when narrowly avoiding slicing through the power supply cable of the electric carving knife she was using to attack a tomato at lunchtime, I decided I had to convince her that microscopic hearing aids might not be the best idea.
“You know,” I said, assuming an air of great authority, “behind the ear ones are much easier to handle if you’re ol…” I noticed a white eyebrow raise, and changed tack by adding, “personally, I don’t give a stuff about what they look like any more.”
“I can see that”, said Mama, making sure I wasn’t getting too big for my daughterly boots. She had another quick glance at my head before adding for good measure, “it’s probably a good thing you’re only able to see them from the front.”