Naturally, I’d much rather be wearing diamonds as big as the Ritz in my ears. Or if I must wear expensive hi-tech gadgetry, I’d prefer that it was something way cooler and more youthful - the latest Apple Watch perhaps - than a hearing aid. Self-conscious idiocy aside, the effect of wearing hearing aids has been more positive, and more radical than I could have imagined.
This sudden access to livelier and more intelligible sound made me think, for the first time in years, of a childhood neighbour who had a radio shack in his back yard and a radio mast that seemed as tall as the Eiffel Tower. I remember listening intently as, hunched over the dials and knobs of his radio set, he would conjure up a human voice out of the surging beeps and whistles and whooshes of the universe. Now that I’m more accustomed to them, the effect of the hearing aids is less dramatic. However, when I wear them, accessing that sunnier aural landscape - more varied and subtle, warmer and more colourful - still transforms my feelings and thoughts, making them somehow, richer and juicier too.
And then there are the more prosaic benefits of improved hearing. I can hear my phone ringing even if it’s in the depths of my bag or in another room. I don’t need to ask someone to repeat what they’ve said. Or hope that my reply to what I imagine they’ve just said isn’t too bizarre. On Thursday night I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy “Under Milkwood” from my seat in the far reaches of the Theatre Royal, if I hadn’t been wearing hearing aids.
The sharpened hearing which comes via expensive, fragile and easily-lost appliances does have its drawbacks. Jointly, the pair of hearing aids I’ve been trialling are worth more than my car. Losing them would therefore be tantamount to writing-off my car in a traffic accident but without the whiplash and contusions. So, unless you have a very forgiving insurance company or a healthy bank balance, you need to be careful not to accidentally dislodge and lose your hearing aids.
In practice this means you can no longer touch your head as casually as you once did. Brushing your hair, taking off your glasses or pulling a jumper over your head has to be done with the utmost caution. If your sartorial preference runs to hats, head-scarves and earrings you need to be very careful when dressing up. Athletic and amorous activity needs to embarked upon with great care too.
There must be no throwing oneself with abandon onto the couch to read a book.
And definitely no head-scratching. Amplified by hearing aids, scratching your own head can sound like a Bengal tiger sharpening its claws on very coarse sandpaper. Yes, there is such a thing as hearing too much. Some of my danglier earrings tinkle maddeningly if I’m wearing hearing aids.
High winds aren’t much fun for the hearing aid wearer. At the market last weekend, I discovered that my usually relaxing perch at the coffee cart was actually at the epicentre of a terrible cacophony: a coffee grinder on one side and a guitar-playing busker on the other. In a one of my favourite coffee shops, what is usually gentle background music and subdued murmurings from other tables, became an overwhelming din when heard through my hearing aids. And then I nearly leapt out of my skin when a cyclist behind me on the Maitai River path helpfully rang his bell to warn me of his approach.
The solution isn’t too difficult. You turn down the volume of the hearing aids which is as easy as pressing a small button on the hearing aid in the left ear. Press the button on the hearing aid in the right ear, and normal transmission is restored. Or, if you feel you’ve spent too long exposed to the razzle and dazzle of almost perfect hearing you can simply remove your hearing aids altogether and slip into the cool and restful shadows once more.