Things You’re Unlikely To See #6

spectacle wearer of the year 2015


Q. What’s the difference between hearing aids and glasses?

A. Aside from approx £3,500 per pair, nobody ever says “I like your new hearing aids” when you walk into a room.

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Specsavers recently announced the winner of their Spectacle Wearer of the Year competition, but potential Hearing Aid Wearers of the Year are still waiting for their invitation to step forward. Go on, Specsavers, I’d love a holiday in the Bahamas and £10,000 to buy a pair of hearing aids that work…


Expletive deleted

subtitle swear word

Walking through the crowded shopping precinct on the way to work, I knew I was in trouble when I spotted a slightly deranged looking old man rushing towards me, waving his finger as if scolding an unknown entity.

“Excuse me! Excuse me!” he shouted.

I tried to pretend I hadn’t seen him, but as soon as he was close enough to start waving his finger in my face, I was forced to stop. My latest trial pair of multifocal lenses immediately zoomed in on a couple of large NHS hearing aids precariously attached to his head, and I was temporarily distracted by wondering what model he had.

“Excuse me,” he shouted, “where’s the fuckin’ television?”

That’s a bit strong for nine in the morning, even in Glasgow, I thought.

“Sorry, where’s the what? ” I enquired, hoping I had misheard, and wondering just how deranged he actually was.

“The fuckin’ television”, he repeated, “The fuckin’ television”. I tried to look blank as I worked out an escape plan, but the television man was persistent. He continued to repeat his question whilst I continued to look blank, but at least the accusatory finger waving had ceased.

All of a sudden, I picked up on an amplified slushy ‘SH’ sound at the end of fuckin’ television and the penny finally dropped in the cookiebite cortex.

“Ah…the television shop”, I said, relieved that he didn’t have an imaginary television which went everywhere with him. “Which one?”

“Which what?” said the man.

“Which television shop” I replied, “…you said you were looking for the television shop?” I left out the fuckin’ for the sake of propriety.

His response was indignant. Perhaps he thought there was something wrong with my ears.

“Ah tellt ye, Hen…Virgin…Ah’m lookin’ fur the Virgin television shop!”

In my defence, the lip shapes of a guttural Glaswegian pronunciation of Virgin (Vuurgin) and the expletive are rather similar…

Do these go to 11?

the mighty chipolata2

The mighty chipolatas are turning out to be something of a sheep in wolf’s clothing, and it seems that I have nothing to fear on the hissing front from the new, improved Danalogic i-FIT. In addition, it has been an unexpected delight to discover that they pick up virtually no nerve shredding background noise at work, unlike the Oticons. Unfortunately, over time, this appears to be down to the fact that the Danalogics are transmitting hardly any sound to my cookiebite ears at all, except for a slight Sean Connery slushiness on ‘SH’ fricatives that I can happily live without. My subjective observation that there is a distinct lack of difference between aided and unaided ears is backed up by a massive increase in the number of times during the day when the spouse sighs deeply, rolls his eyes and says “Have you got your bloody hearing aids in” and those are just the times I know about because I’m actually looking at him.

On the upside, my worries about navigating a volume wheel with no default stop have been allayed by simply turning the wheel as far up as it will go at all times; I have been assured that it can’t snap off and there is virtually no audible difference between the minimum 1 and maximum 4 setting anyway. If I’d ever tried that with the surround sound Oticons, my employers would have been scraping bits of my head off the architecturally acclaimed double height concrete ceiling the first time a metal chair leg was scraped across the studio floor.

Disappointingly, on the leisure side, TV is once more inaudible at, or below, spouse discomfort threshold levels, and on the music programme the piano is distressingly distorted. I’ll report on the telecoil setting if I ever find a working loop anywhere.

I have a follow-up at the beginning of October but, for once, I’m not too eager to discover the outcome…

The Upgrade part 3: Will hissssssstory repeat itself?

the mighty chipolata

“Good news, no great change since your last hearing test”, announced the charming audiologist as I handed the sweaty button-push back. “There’s a mild loss in the low frequencies, but nothing significant”.

I peered at the screen while she did a bit of wire untangling for the next bit, and beamed with pride as I spotted a perfect 0dB threshold in both ears at 4KHz. I always like to do well in a test, but zero dB, wow. This was actually 10dB better than it was back in 2010, so I surmised that I should be able to enjoy the hissing of leaves on the trees, the hissing of the sea, and the hissing of hearing aid circuitry for many more years to come. In fact, if things kept up at this rate of improvement, I might even be able to hear the hissing of other people’s hearing aid circuitry in five years’ time.

“Okay, you know the drill”, said the charming audiologist, as sound probes were wiggled into my ears and the chipolatas were wired up ready for programming. The Oticons, now prostrate and deaf on the table, looked tiny and vulnerable in comparison; I remembered my tragic abandonment of the Siemens Chroma S back in 2012 and vowed that this time, the Oticons were coming home with me until I knew that things were going to be alright. If the performance of the mighty chipolatas matched up to their size, I would be happy to let the Oticons go to NHS hearing aid heaven. If it didn’t…well, it didn’t bear thinking about, so I decided not to, just yet.

After the initial programming, the charming audiologist set about a bit of on-screen fiddling with settings, and I started to become anxious every time a hiss or distortion entered the setup. I wished, not for the first time, that I could do the fiddling bit myself, but after a short while, her work was done and the moment of truth arrived.

“Right, I’m just going to talk for a bit so that you can tell me how it sounds”, she said. I listened carefully, relieved that although I could hear some hiss thanks to my freak bat ear peak at 4KHz, it was nowhere near as loud as the last time with the original Danalogics. I’d rather have no hiss at all, but I could live with it. To my cookiebite ears, the 2012 originals had sounded like a basket of chips being lowered into a deep fat fryer at the initial fitting. This time, other than a mild hiss  and air-con sound, there was nothing distinctive to comment on, but there never is in a soundproof room with air-con. Result.

“Sounds okay –  ” I stopped in my tracks.

“Oh… my voice sounds different…not dramatically so, but…different…” I struggled in vain for a description to the sound, but nothing came apart from ‘boingyness’ and I thought I’d better just keep that one to myself since I was supposed to be articulate. I certainly couldn’t hear anything intrusively bad, so after a run-through of the controls and a small tantrum of disbelief upon discovering the fact that there was a volume wheel instead of a push button, no default beep indicator on the volume, and no mute setting, I decided I was ready to return to the outside world.

I thanked the charming audiologist for her genuinely charming and painstaking attentions, slid the sleeping Oticons off the edge of the table into my handbag, and set off with the chipolatas on my ears to experience a whole new world of Danalogic sound.

The Upgrade part 2: Maybe they might be taking them after all…

hearing aids with wings

The very nice new audiologist must have noted my intensely misplaced interest in the Deafblind poster in the waiting room, because she warned me to watch my step on the raised threshold of the audiometry room as I entered. I was very impressed by her charming and attentive manner which made me feel slightly less apprehensive about potentially having to wave goodbye to the Oticon Spirit Zests. I had become rather attached to them, and it occurred to me that they had been listening in on every conversation I’ve had for the last 3 years. Ah, if hearing aids could talk, what tales they could tell, I mused poetically, wondering if if I could patent the idea for espionage purposes. Fortunately the Oticons had their battery drawers open during my previous visit to clinic O last month, and couldn’t hear their digital death sentence being issued by the hearing aid re-tubing lady. I cast my mind back to that fateful morning:

“We’re discontinuing services and spares on these Oticons”, she had announced gravely, as she rummaged through the tubes box, ” I’ll change them for you just now while we’ve still got some left in stock, but this will be the last time…you’re actually due for an upgrade anyway…you’ll get something nice and new instead, isn’t that good!”

“But…but…” I spluttered, “I got these ones ordered specially because of my type of loss, the standard issue ones didn’t work for me, I could hear the circuit noise…what will I get instead?”

Please don’t say Danalogic i-FIT 71, pleeeease’,  I beseeched my inner deity, despite it having let me down on quite a few beseechings lately.

“It’ll be one of these”, she said, reaching for the silicone ear model and plucking a brown chipolata-sized hearing aid from its rubber earhole. I should have been distressed at its size and general appearance, which was that of a partially inflated water balloon, but I’ve come a long way since nearly fainting at my first sight of a tiny NHS beige prawn back in 2010. Besides, the chipolata didn’t look like the previous i-fit I’d had, so there was still hope. Hey, maybe it was actually a top-notch Phonak or something…tssk, typical of me to have assumed the worst, I sighed. I tried desperately to align the elusive close vision sweet spot of my bifocals with the name on the casing to see if it started with ‘P’, but the re-tubing lady got in there first.

“It’s the new, improved Danalogic i-FIT es 71″ she announced cheerily, before turning her attention back to the disembowelled Oticons and doing a bit more noisy rummaging in drawers.

“But…but…” I spluttered, before the rummaging suddenly stopped and I was hit by the next devastating blow. Having to get my ears syringed again in preparation for the new fitting was bad enough, but there was worse to come; it seemed there was only one longer No. 2 tube left, so I’d have to have a shorter No. 1 on the right aid. I had a flashback to my last experience with a No.1 tube and panicked.

“That won’t work” I blurted unintentionally forcefully, giving the re-tubing lady a bit of a fright. She hadn’t realised what kind of peculiar exterior and interior head anatomy she was dealing with when innocently making her suggestion. I felt bad for being so ungracious, but it was just that the thought of having to gurn my way through the day to keep a too-short tube in place was very unappealing, especially in conjunction with the bizarre cranial contortions necessary to see anything through my new bifocal contact lenses. If all this kept up, I’d have to start wearing a clown suit to work in order to lend some gravitas to my academic image. No, this wouldn’t do at all.

“Just fish the old tube out the bin, and stick a new dome on it” I said, very pragmatically.

The Upgrade part 1: They’ll never take my hearing aids

“Don’t let them take your old hearing aids off you Hun”, pleaded the spouse as I set off for my visit to Clinic O this morning, to be lavished with a full hearing aid upgrade. I reassured him that, until such time as the upgrade had been given a full trial, the Oticons would be going nowhere without me, unless I was chloroformed in the hospital lift by the rogues who illegally sell NHS hearing aids to unsuspecting bidders on eBay. Fifteen minutes later, in the lift up to Clinic O, I made sure that I didn’t turn my back on anyone, just in case. At the second floor, I got out alone and with hearing aids intact and set off on the walk along the empty corridor. There was not a soul in sight, and when I emerged into the eerily empty waiting room, the ENT reception desk was unattended and all the doors to the rooms in the Hearing Aid Clinic were locked.

“Maybe they saw my name in the book and everyone’s hiding”, I thought, before realising there were still another five minutes to go until my rousingly early 8am appointment. I took my pick of the seats in the best vantage point for name call, and since it was so early that the telly wasn’t even on yet, I kept myself busy by putting my latest trial pair of multifocal contact lenses through their paces. I had been ready to throw in the towel after the first pair, but the optician is clearly an optimist and/ or likes a challenge. I focused randomly on the distant noticeboard, but all was a blur apart from the familiar sign made from four A4 printouts taped together saying HEARING AID CLINIC in one foot high capitals. Hmmm. It seemed I’d have to adopt my new multifocal distance vision pose to force the lenses into the correct alignment with my eyeballs to see any thing else on the board. I took a deep breath, turned my head as far as it would go to the left, then swivelled my eyes as far as they would go to the right, whilst keeping my chin firmly over the left shoulder. The noticeboard swam briefly into focus, but as I wondered whether this ludicrous posture was really sustainable as a multifocal vision solution whilst running for trains, etc, the first poster I read turned out to be very apposite.

Having trouble hearing? Having trouble seeing?” enquired the headline  in a cheery fashion, before everything drifted annoyingly out of focus again.

“Hell, yes!” I said to myself, reassured that I had come to the right place. I read on excitedly, but it turned out that I had not ended up in Specsavers Hearcare by accident, after all. The poster was actually an invitation to sign up for a meeting of Deafblind Scotland and, despite the clear resonance of its headline, I’m not quite eligible for that particular club. Just as I was puzzling over how the intended target audience would access the poster, my name was called, and I was invited to step into the audiometry booth.

No Greater Love…

i heart hearing aids

“This is all your fault!” I shouted at the spouse on the station steps, “If you hadn’t decided to get the same train as me this morning, I wouldn’t have forgotten to put my hearing aids in!

The spouse took a deep breath. Now was not the time for him to question the logic of this last statement.

“…Today of all days,” I ranted on, “I can’t be late for the assessments… and I need to hear what’s being said!”

“Do you want to go back and get them?” interjected the spouse rather sensibly. “We can just get a taxi into work instead.”

I hesitated slightly at the attractiveness of this proposition, but decided to take a more hormonally irrational approach.

“No.” I said, “I’ve managed to get by without the damn things for forty-odd years, and I bloody hate taxis.” A vibration on the metal steps underfoot spurred me into action. “Hurry up!” I snapped,  “we need to get tickets, I can hear the train coming…”

The spouse rolled his eyes as he watched a dustbin lorry rumble past. It didn’t sound anything like a train to him.

Half an hour later, as everyone gathered with their clipboards in the studio at work, my heart sank as I realised I couldn’t make out the pre-assessment chit-chat. I felt a pang of remorse and wished I’d listened to the spouse on the station steps instead of shouting at him. Why hadn’t I just gone back to get the bloody aids when I had the chance? What an idiot. This was going to be a very long day.

Just as the assessment proceedings were finally about to get underway, the studio door opened and the spouse appeared. What was he doing here? He was supposed to be hanging an exhibition in another building…I was confused. Heads turned as he strode in and handed me a tiny plastic snack box. I couldn’t believe it. This was either the smallest packed lunch of all time, or…

“My hearing aids!” I exclaimed, as I noisily snapped the box open in front of my curious colleagues, “Thanks Hun!”

Unbeknownst to me, the spouse had waved me off at the entrance to work and gone all the way back home to fetch my ear gear. Even after being shouted at.

If I hadn’t already married him, dear readers, I’d have decided to marry him on the spot.



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