any years ago, I used to telephone my father every Friday afternoon at three o’clock. We’d arranged that day and time because by the end of the week we usually had something to talk about, he would have finished studying the form of racehorses and placed his bet with the local bookmaker and I would have finished writing about jewellery because that’s what I did back then.
One Friday I had someone in the office selecting photographs from a shoot when my father decided to call me. I apologised to my visitor and began our weekly chat. My father had been slowly losing his hearing but that day he seems to have had great difficulty in understanding certain words. That was when I made things worse by spelling the words he couldn’t hear. The problem then of course was that in spelling out the word he couldn’t differentiate some of the letters, a T for a D for example. Much to my regret I then said D as in Donald and then had to spell out Donald, and by the time I’d done that I’d lost track of what I was trying to tell him. My visitor was in hysterics and needless to say I started laughing and my father didn’t see the funny side so we said goodbye rather abruptly. If you read the highly entertaining book Deaf Sentence by David Lodge, in it his hero goes through similar and other more complicated situations.
My reason for telling you this is that the wheel has now come full circle. Some time ago, my youngest daughter suddenly asked me why my wristwatch was ticking so loudly. I’d heard nothing and when I put it to my ear sure enough there was a very distant tick-tock from its mechanical movement. Trying to cover up my hearing problem I launched into an horological explanation about the difference between a mechanical and a quartz watch.
Some months later, I am the proud owner of a very modern hearing aid that is cleverly concealed by my sideburns. My mobile telephone now rings directly in my ears and I can watch the television without turning the volume up to a deafening pitch, since I get the sound directly via its bluetooth link. My neighbours have yet to thank me.
There are dozens of jokes about hearing problems, such as the classic, “It’s windy today.” “No it’s not, it’s Thursday.” “Me too, let’s go to the pub.” My favourite, however, is about a man who goes to the family doctor to ask what he should do about his wife’s hearing, since he constantly has to repeat things to her.
To assess her problem, the doctor suggests he speaks to her from another room and keeps repeating it as he gets closer until finally she answers him. That evening whilst his wife is in the kitchen and he is in the living room, he calls out “What’s for dinner?” He moves closer and repeats the question three more times until he’s finally standing at the door of the kitchen where he once again asks “What’s for dinner?” She looks at him and snarls, “For the fifth bloody time, chicken casserole!”
Have a Happy and Healthy New Year, and if I don’t hear from you I’ll assume the battery needs changing in my state-of-the-art hearing aid.