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Hear Here

Declining years tend to mean declining faculties, especially sight and hearing. Glasses or lenses cope with the first, but age-related deafness creeps up on you. Low frequencies can still be heard, the deterioration is in the middle and higher tones. Vowels are low frequencies, consonants are higher; speech becomes less audible. The ability to filter conversations in crowded situations gets worse. We apparently hear between 25 and 50% of what is said and our brain fills in the blanks.

For some years, Iíd been suffering age-related deafness, but it seemed to have plateaued at a level where I could still cope in both English and, importantly for me, French. For a foreign language, you need to understand more like 70%.

Then in July, disaster struck when a party balloon burst very loudly near my head. It left me almost completely deaf for two days and even after a couple of weeks, my hearing was only partially restored. Suddenly, I was in a different, almost silent world. My wife had to shout at me and repeat herself ad nauseam and the TV had to be at disco volume. Going out with friends or to a party became a nightmare, I simply couldnít hear conversations. I donít exaggerate when I say I became quite depressed and frustrated, not to say remote, uncommunicative and bad-tempered.

Why is this relevant to WA and writing? Because my desire to write just wilted. I no longer felt in control, my joie de vivre had gone, along with my motivation and my imagination. I did manage a couple of pieces, but purely by gritting my teeth and dragging myself to the keyboard. Where I sat and metaphorically sucked the end of my pencil.

The appointment with an ENT specialist took nearly a month. He examined me thoroughly, then conducted tests. They confirmed permanent damage to the mid and higher ranges Ė I needed hearing aids.

The French health system is wonderful, but pays very little towards hearing aids. In France, a pair will cost you some Ä3000! President Macron is promising free hearing aids, because thousands of citizens need but canít afford them.

Guessing that Iíd require the devices, Iíd been doing some devilling on the web and discovered HearingDirect.com, who sell online at around a third of the French price. After discussion with their audiologist, I chose a pair, for which new stock was expected within a week. In reality, there was a delay of two months before delivery. My frustration just grew and grew, I simply wasnít very nice to live with.

So, has normal service been resumed? Almost but not quite, they ameliorate your hearing, they donít restore it. The aids themselves are practically invisible, sitting above each ear and connected by micro-tubes.

Until deafness hit me, Iíd tended to dismiss it as something that affected other people. Now I truly understand the many difficulties and the screaming frustration caused by being unable to hear and communicate. It does change your life, your outlook, your drive, your enthusiasm.

But my mojoís back, write on!

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