To Hear, or Not To Hear

Today was the day for my dreaded date with the dentist’s drill, after my main chewing gnasher developed a suspicious and rather painful crack recently. My leaving the house routine was even more prolonged than usual, what with all the physical and mental preparation necessary to get a confirmed dental phobic to the surgery. The meticulous tooth brushing came first, then the leaden dragging of feet, whilst letting out small moans of distress whenever within the spouse’s earshot. Then there was the constant having to remind oneself to breathe in order to avoid passing out, a laborious task which makes one fully appreciate the normally unconscious workings of the central nervous system. Once the breathing was sorted, the feeling of faintness and tingling in the extremities subsided long enough for me to reach the bedroom to find the hearing aids. As I popped one into each ear, the traffic noise outside switched on suddenly, just as it always does, and I suddenly felt faint again.

Dentist. Horrible noises. To make matters worse, horrible noises via bone conduction as well as through the lugholes. High frequency horrible noises. I felt my hands go slightly clammy and had to remind myself to start breathing again. If this wasn’t a case for putting the Oticons back in their box, I didn’t know what was. Not to mention the harmful effects of dental x-rays on hearing aids. On reflection, I chose to ignore that one, since my own experiments with NHS hearing aids and ionising radiation have not demonstrated a link thus far, and I’ve got an appointment at the hearing aid clinic tomorrow should anything go wrong.

My thoughts were interrupted by the spouse mumbling unintelligibly from his study.

I hesitated. Maybe going hearing aid-less to the dentist wasn’t such a good idea after all, since there was speech involved. I weighed up the cons. There were quite a few. First up, the waiting room and the extra vigilance required for the name calling; that bit had gone wrong before. Then there was the chairside chat; lipreading is slightly more difficult when your eyes are screwed tightly shut in terror. Did he just say “bite down” or “don’t bite down”? Saying the usual “EH” to everything to ensure proper confirmation is difficult when your paralysed mouth is wedged wide open, plus the proximity of a dental drill makes the usual 50/50 guess strategy response that bit more dangerous. Hmmm, yes, things were definitely coming down on the side of wearing the aids in the chair.

My exacting weighing up of the pros and cons was interrupted by the spouse reminding me that I was going to miss my train if I didn’t get a move on. He even spoke to me from the same room to ensure I got the message.

I realised I needed to make a decision, and a timely flashback to an ancient joke finally helped me make my mind up. It’s the one about the guy who takes a car door with him to the desert so that he can wind the window down if he gets too hot.

Eureka! I could wear the aids to the dentist, listen to the first bout of high intensity drilling, then turn the volume right down so that I could appreciate that the noise could be much worse. The large number of clicks on the volume buttons required to do this would also enable me to appreciate getting the one click ‘Mute’ setting activated at Clinic O tomorrow after two previously unsuccessful attempts. Once the drilling sound was turned down, I could then turn my attention back to breathing, and marvel at the beauty of the human autonomic nervous system, whilst reclining for over an hour in a very comfy leather chair with its own pink drink dispenser…and all of this when I should be at work. Life-affirming positivity conjured from extreme negativity! Result.

I headed for the front door with a slightly less leaden step than before, and made a quieter moan of distress whilst passing the spouse.

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