Hearing Aids with Attitude

hearing aid tattoos

I can’t seem to find time to write anything these days, so here is a Photoshop version of my latest ongoing hearing aid pimping exercise instead. I can’t think of anything better than a nice tattoo to set off a pair of flesh coloured NHS hearing instruments, and I’m hoping they might intimidate those irritating people in shop queues who helpfully insist on poking you on the shoulder from behind, if you don’t move at the speed of Usain Bolt once a till becomes available.

It would appear that, for some people, the sight of hearing aids in a queue can bring out the same primitive instinct as the sight of a caravan ahead on the road; they become impatient to overtake even when the caravan is travelling at the same speed as all the other vehicles…

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Secret Agent or deafie

Illustration with apologies to Dick Bruna

 

It occurred to me last week, after a series of frustrating occurrences at work, that my rapidly evolving HOH behaviour patterns have the capacity to be misunderstood. Just in case anyone else out there is wondering whether their deaf colleague might be a secret agent, I have prepared a handy checklist of similarities in order to clear up any potential misunderstandings. If the person sitting next to you does any of these, there may be a simple explanation…

Always first in and last to leave

They might be on an intelligence gathering mission for MI5, or just catching up with all their extra prep and trying to get some head space because their brain is fried after a long day of listening.

Their eyes always seem to be following you

They might be waiting to inject you with a poison dart hidden in their umbrella, or just trying to read your lips.

They keep fiddling with their ear

They’re either wired for surveillance, or it could just be that their hearing aids are making their ears itchy.

Jumps whenever someone sneaks up behind them

They might be up to no good with the Freedom of Information filing cabinet, or just not heard you coming.

Waits till there is no-one about before making phone calls

They might be reporting back to the Kremlin, or just unable to hear on the phone in background noise.

Hastily abandons dialling the phone whenever someone enters the room

They might be making a clandestine call to Julian Assange, or just abandoning all hope of getting some peace to hear on the phone.

Takes an unnatural interest in room layouts and furniture arrangements

They might be planting surveillance devices, or just trying to make sure that they can locate themselves in a position where they can hear during a meeting.

Ignores you when you call their name in the street

They may be operating under a false identity, or just not have heard you speaking from behind.

Sneaks off on their own during lunch breaks at conferences

They might be uploading some files to the Pentagon from a blacked-out vehicle in the car park, or just hoping not to have to nod and smile embarrassingly over a plate of cold chicken drumsticks for an hour.

Pretends they haven’t seen you at the train station

They might not want their cover to be blown in an area that’s crawling with police, or they might be trying to avoid the embarrassment of having a one-sided conversation on the hoof, in mind blowing amounts of background noise.

Goes to the toilet on staff night outs and doesn’t come back

They’re either on the next flight to Acapulco with a suitcase full of gold bars, or they can’t face another three hours of fake nodding and smiling.

Always makes an excuse not to go to the pub

Could be that they don’t want to risk the potential of a Rohypnol tablet being dropped in their dry Martini, or perhaps they can’t face three hours of fake nodding and smiling.

Looks blank when you ask them, over a cup of tea in the canteen, what they’re doing at the weekend.

Either they don’t want you to know that they’ll be hacking Google’s servers from the basement of their rented accommodation, or they just didn’t hear what you said for all the bloody racket in the canteen.

Looks blank when you ask them if they’ve seen that confidential file you accidentally mislaid.

Either they’ve already flogged it to the FBI and have six million dollars winging their way into their Swiss bank account, or they just didn’t hear you asking.

 

The Cookie Bite Chronicles is unable to take responsibility for any confusion caused by the complex activities of secret agents who also happen to wear hearing aids.

Welcome back Auntie Mo!

Paradox

 

Technical troubles 

In loud background noise, I was frantically cycling through my ha programs trying to find the background noise reduction setting on my hearing aids, but I couldn’t hear the program beeps because the background noise was too loud. I lost my place and ended up with one hearing aid on the music setting and the other on T-coil at maximum volume. The only way to sort it was to take them out in public, switch them off and turn them back on again. Why can’t they make the beeps louder…am I the only person to find this annoying?

By a strange coincidence, this happened to me yesterday in front of a group of new students, causing me to fall from my pedagogical pedestal before I’d even had a chance to cock up on curricular matters. Although I fear that the terrible sight of my exposed domes is now forever imprinted on those impressionable young minds, I have belatedly come up with a solution to prevent further incidents of the same nature:

Before attempting to fiddle with your settings in a noisy environment, tap a wineglass with a knife and shout ‘SPEECH!’ to temporarily create enough hush to hear the beeps. If you still can’t hear them, and you get lost in the settings, break wind noisily to create a diversion while you do the necessary with the battery drawers. Everyone will now be staring at the ground and concentrating on hiding their sniggers, instead of watching you tussle with your hearing instruments. Believe me, this approach is far more dignified than troubleshooting your aids in full view of an expectant audience.

Turning the tables

My other half took the hump the other day because he was asking me if I had my hearing aids in and I couldn’t hear him because I didn’t have my hearing aids in. It’s like people going in the huff after asking you by text to let them know if you’ve received their text, when you clearly haven’t received their text. How can I get him to frame his questions about my hearing aid status more sensibly?

Forget this ‘sensible’ nonsense, and have some fun with a bit of empathy training instead. Hide his reading glasses, and when he goes looking for them, insist on communicating their location via microscopically written instructions on tiny slips of paper. Roll your eyes and sigh heavily when he begs you to read them out to him, then angrily rewrite the words in giant capital letters to reinforce the message.

Telephone torture

My hearing aid clinic will only allow you to make an appointment by telephone, and then they get annoyed when you turn up at the wrong time. They also do hearing aid fitting follow-ups for new users by phone. How ridiculous is that. Why won’t they let you communicate by email?

I don’t know what the official reasoning is, but with email, it may be that it’s too expensive for the NHS to supply the blindfolds necessary to recreate the stressful experience of being deaf on a telephone via a textual medium. Seriously though, I think it’s because email can be a bit ambiguous; tone of voice is very important whenever a receptionist feels the need to be condescending.

Tweaking twerps

When I go to the hearing aid clinic, why do they always wait till they’ve got my hearing aids in their hands before they start asking important questions like “Do you need any more batteries?” and saying things like “I’ll just cut the retention tails off these new tubes, shall I?” How am I supposed to respond to a question I can’t hear? God knows what they’re saying during the bits where they’re talking with their back to me, they could be offering me an upgrade, or telling me I’ve won a lifetime supply of 8mm domes and a rare printout of my audiogram for all I know. Is this a sneaky NHS cost-cutting tactic?

Forget the conspiracy theory, they’re just being totally thoughtless.

 

You can find some more of Auntie Mo’s unique solutions to hearing aid problems here

Crossed wires

Isle of Arran seen from St Blane's

Isle of Arran seen from St Blane’s

The Cookiebite Cortex, the part of the HOH brain responsible for piecing together fragments of speech and making up fanciful interpretations of what is being said at any given time, has two error modes of output: 1. Utter Gibberish and 2. Strangely Poetic. In my experience, Utter Gibberish tends to be the default mode, and the cookiebiter owes a great debt of gratitude to the invention of written language, without which we would be condemned to an entire lifetime of people laughing at our strange turn of phrase whenever saying anything out loud.

Just occasionally, however, the Cookiebite Cortex swings into Strangely Poetic mode, in response to a series of contextual cues from its internal and external environment. I was reminded of this yesterday, as I heaved myself wearily over a stile whilst enjoying a nice country walk in the autumn sunshine. I managed to narrowly avoid ripping my trousers on the neighbouring barbed wire fence, and the brief touch of the vicious metal thorns strung from post to post stirred a long-buried memory; as a child, when I first saw a written reference to ‘barbed wire’, it took me a while to connect the concept to ‘bad wire’, my own misheard version of the name for the shin-ripping wire which lurked unseen in suburban undergrowth, waiting for its chance to painfully ensnare children who were running about after dark in places they shouldn’t…

Like mother, like daughter…

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.”

Hands off our hearing aids!

Hands off our hearing aids

Listening to the previously inaudible gentle lapping of waves on the Isle of Bute

Cookie Bite Chronicles commenter Juliet has asked me to put in a shout for the AOHL ‘Hands off our hearing aids’ campaign, before the public consultation ends at midnight on 31st Jul 2014, in 6 days time. In a nutshell, ‘North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has announced proposals to withdraw the provision of NHS-funded hearing aids for adults with mild to moderate age-related hearing loss.’ ie the majority of NHS hearing aid users, and the group who gain most benefit from them. You can find more information from AOHL and a link to the North Staffs CCG survey here There’s also a link to the Thunderclap campaign here for those of you on Facebook/ Twitter/ Tumblr There’s no suggestion (yet) that anyone who currently has NHS hearing aids would have them taken away, but those of us who currently benefit owe it to the hearing aid users of tomorrow to object to this very cruel cut. Make your voice heard!

5 things to do at work which will make people suddenly need to speak to you out of the blue.

1. Run a tap.

You could have been sitting in silence all morning, but the minute you go to fill the kettle or do the dishes, people will almost be queuing up to ask you a question they could have asked just two minutes before, when you’d have been able to hear them. Now you won’t see them coming because your back is turned, and your hearing aids have digitally transformed a harmless trickle of tap water into the thunderous roar of Niagara Falls. Those who persist in trying to get your attention under these circumstances will be rewarded by the sight of you jumping out of your skin and breaking the boss’s favourite mug.

2. Look like you’re concentrating really hard during a meeting.

While your colleagues were having a laid-back coffee and dragging their heels to arrive at the meeting venue, you were already there, frantically rearranging the furniture so that you’d be able to see everyone’s face round the table. Now that the proceedings are underway, they’re all happily multi-tasking with their mobile devices, reading and writing emails, doodling, staring into space. You, on the other hand, are locked in a lipreading death stare with the Quiet Speaker, and displaying your strange predilection for writing illegible notes without looking at the page. You’re looking far too serious, what you need is for someone to whisper a series of inaudible witty asides in your ear…

3. Take your aids out to get some peace.

This one never fails, it’s as if people are psychic or have some sort of smartphone hearing aid tracking device that tells them when to pounce. With hearing aids out, you’ve finally managed to concentrate long enough to write that two line email which has eluded you all morning, and your reading glasses are no longer fighting for behind the ear space and hurting your lugs. The unexpected appearance of a question at this juncture means you’ve now got to take your glasses off to hurriedly get the aids back on again. More often than not, carrying out this operation under the quizzical gaze of a superior can result in some yellowing part of the hearing aid being left protruding embarrassingly from your ear until you next look in a mirror.

4. Open a window for some fresh air

It may well have been quiet outside since you first opened that window half an hour ago, but be assured that the moment the dustbin lorry appears at the kerb and starts its deafening crushing operation, someone will need an urgent answer to something. Especially if you’ve just taken your aids out to get some peace.

5. Walk along a corridor

The sight of a HOH person in an echoey corridor would appear irresistible to some. The individual who had no questions when you asked “Has anyone got any questions?” in a quiet room a few minutes ago will suddenly find one, and it’s now urgent. Unfortunately, in the corridor acoustic, you can’t hear it and will have to choose between looking where you are going and lipreading. In my experience, few such questions actually merit the risk of walking into door frames. Just pretend you heard and are ignoring them, it’s easier.


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