Excluding those closest to me, not many people will know that for seven years now I have been living with a severe hearing impairment. Partial deafness caused as a result of numerous ear infections as a child. Infections which lead, first, to several attempts to install grommets during my younger years and later, at 17, a rather serious operation designed to remove infected scar tissue from my left ear. This operation, a mastoidectomy (removal of the mastoid bones), eventually leaving me with only 14% capability in one ear, with the other languishing at a measly 50%. Essentially, my hearing is not all that good and though I cope rather well, I do tend to struggle with situations boasting excessive background noise (wind, traffic, tv, radio, additional conversations), and find it difficult to track noises back to their original source due to my inability to triangulate sounds correctly.
Over the years since my operation, despite struggling, I have never made an effort to get hearing aids: perhaps due to vanity, perhaps due to the perceived stigma associated with the nifty little devices. A grievous error on my part; my decision meaning that for some time now, I have struggled to enjoy the natural world in all its glory. The song of thrushes and finches, while audible, muted and dull and the shrill calls of smaller birds – particularly Goldcrests – almost inaudible and extremely difficult to pinpoint. Indeed, such is the nature of the problem, that even louder birdsong leaves me struggling to find exactly where it is coming from – a bird calling behind me often finds me staring in the opposite direction to no avail. Such is the nature of my knackered ears and, truth be told, it isn’t all that great for someone who spends so much time outdoors.
Well, fast forward to this morning and a surprise intervention from my Mum found me kitted out with a new hearing device. Just a cheap one to trial, for now, but a hearing aid all the same. A brief pre-lunch spell in the garden proving more than sufficient to drastically brighten up my day. The sound of a Robin belting out a familiar, seasonal tune from the Hawthorn at the bottom of our yard; the sound of Starlings cackling as they scrounged leftovers from next doors lawn and even the sharp notes of a Goldcrest audible as I sat, enraptured. These sounds, these humble, everyday sounds coming as a breath of fresh air and, quite literally, music to my weary ears.
I fear it was rather silly of me to avoid joining the hearing aid club until now; though now it makes not a shred of difference. From now on my woodland walks and forays elsewhere look set to take on a whole new level of clarity and, more than anything, I am very grateful for the gift of birdsong this Christmas.
Bonus, they don’t look half as bad as anticipated…