31 May 2018

Hear, hear!

Yesterday was a big day for me. In so many ways it was ordinary; Prayer Breakfast in the morning, a  meeting at church and planning meeting with a wedding couple. Then in the afternoon I had an appointment at the hospital in Cromer.
When I was an infant, I suffered with pneumonia. A result of being poorly at a critical stage of development was that my hearing was impaired. In my right ear, I've only ever been able to hear the lower frequencies. I remember going for annual hearing tests throughout my school years, and being told that the impairment was permanent, but that I would probably get along just fine.
Since then, I've found noisy and busy environments difficult. If there's a lot of 'chatter' or background noise, I lose people's voices and can't follow conversations. This is one of the reasons I was never much into pubs and clubs when I was younger. They were so often a miserable and isolating experience. It's probably also one of the reasons why I enjoy sound engineering and radio production - sound technology is a great leveller!
About 10 years ago I felt like my hearing might have got a bit worse, so I went to the GP and was referred for a test. The test showed that my left ear was perfect and that my right ear was impaired, just as I remembered it, in the high frequencies. Due to hopping around between health authorities, they couldn't compare with my childhood records, but the consultant felt that as I'd coped with it for so long, I would probably continue to cope without any intervention. He felt a single hearing aid might just confuse my brain and make it worse. I suppose I was reassured that everything was OK, and I carried on as before.
Then came a change of career. In the last 8 years, I have gone from office-based work to the life of a parish priest. Now, being a vicar involves a fair bit of desk work, but the biggest part of it is being with people and interacting with them. Sometimes it's easy because, like my Wednesday engagements, the numbers of people are small and the environment is quiet. But quite often, people choose to tell you deep and meaningful information over coffee at the back of church, whilst the organ is still playing. Or in the pub over a pint. Quite often, the important bits get crowded out by the noise.
Of course, I've learnt lots of tricks to try and keep up with conversation. I try to sit with my good ear towards people, I cup my hand around my ear, I read lips, and I guess an awful lot. But after nearly 8 years of ministry, it became clear that I needed to explore my options. I'd admired a friend's new hearing aids (which he said were brilliant), and I thought I'd go back to the GP. He referred me to the ENT department, and I went for a test. The test showed what I already knew; that I can't hear high frequencies in my right ear, and it doesn't seem like much has changed since my last test.
When I saw the ENT consultant this time, I explained my situation, and he thought a hearing aid
might be worth a try. The technology has come on a long way, and he thought I'd be able to cope with it. So yesterday I went back to the hospital for a hearing aid fitting. And what an excellent experience it was. My audiologist was superbly skilled and knowledgeable, and after 20 minutes I came away with my very own hearing aid.
Now it's very early days (it can take 3 months to adjust to hearing aids) but the signs are good. As I left the hospital, I heard the birds singing through my right ear with a clarity and beauty that I have never experienced before. I suppose that given my left ear is perfectly fine, that might seem like an odd thing to say. I've heard birds before, so what's the big deal? But it was a strangely spiritual and emotional experience for me. There's probably some deep theological reflection I could do on the topic, but for now it's enough to note the experience. And that's why I chose to write a post this evening. I wanted to mark an important moment in my life with a few thoughts and reflections, before the sound of birds in my right ear becomes thoroughly normal.
And before I sign off, I need to applaud the NHS. Whilst it's taken a while to get to this point, I've been absolutely impressed by the level of professionalism and care by an organisation under incredible strain. Keep up the amazing work!

1 comment:

  1. What fantastic news! Hope you continue to experience lots of beautiful moments as well as practical benefits with the new hearing aid.