In which I stir a mug of tea

I had completely underestimated how exciting it would be to hear things that are NOT speech.  As my hearing gradually got worse over the years many environmental sounds disappeared, but losing them didn’t make me feel particularly sad.  There were work-arounds for the loss of some sounds; others I just forgot about.

So for example, when I couldn’t hear the office fire alarm anymore I made sure I didn’t work there on my own.  When I was working away from home I’d tell the hotel to alert me if their alarm went off in the night.  I set my phone to vibrate instead of ring.  Life continued much as before and I didn’t stress about the changes.

Similarly with sounds you forget about.  Birdsong was one of the first things I lost. Way back in my early thirties, half a lifetime ago, I remember being surprised when someone commented on birds singing in the trees in our London street.  I’d not heard them.  Since then, Nigel has kept me up to date with key events in bird-land.  He’ll tell me when he hears the first curlews returning to the moors and fields around us in Spring.  He’ll tell me when the birds are singing their hearts out at the start of the breeding season.  I like him to tell me (it keeps me in touch) but NOT hearing those sounds hasn’t made me feel low.  It’s really only the loss of speech that has got to me.

So I wasn’t expecting, this past week, to feel so delighted that I could hear things I hadn’t heard in years.

When you stir a mug of tea the spoon TINCKLES against the side of the mug.  Did you know that?  I had utterly forgotten.  The first time it happened I stared at the cup.  Stopped stirring.  Started stirring again.  It was incredibly nostalgic.  “Goodness”, I thought to myself, “I remember now, that’s what stirring a cup of tea sounds like.”  Previously there would have been a dull, quiet, thudding.

Light switches SNAP when you turn them on or off, in a wonderfully loud, crisp way.  The washing machine BEEPS to tell you that the cycle is finished.  The laptop keyboard CLICKS when you type.

It’s not the right season for a lot of birdsong but I’m starting to hear, on walks with Izzy, a lot of very high pitched short squeaks that I don’t think can be anything else.  We’ve had some snow (not a lot) and frost (a lot).  The wonderful SQUEAKY CRUNCHING sounds as you walk along a country path are very gratifying.

And how about sneezing!  For years Nigel has struggled, unsuccessfully, to get me to tone my sneezing down.  “Please”, he would say, “you have no idea how loud it is, couldn’t you try to sneeze more quietly?”  I would listen but not really take it in.  I enjoy a good sneeze and it didn’t sound too bad to me.  A couple of days after switch on I sneezed.  B****Y HELL (excuse the language).  It was deafening.  A sort of incredibly loud, high pitched explosion.  Why had nobody told me?  (Sorry Nigel).

Some sounds, on the other hand, have stayed much the same.  I’m only moderately deaf for low pitched sounds (the consultant called it “very useful low frequency hearing”) so life hasn’t been quiet these past years, just one-dimensional.  Environmental sounds that are mainly low pitched have, therefore, not changed much.  A boiling kettle sounds much like a boiling kettle used to sound; ditto our central heating boiler.  Nigel’s car sounds just like it used to.  Mine sounds a lot more rattly than I thought it did, but it IS almost eleven years old.  New sounds have, however, crept into the dishwasher cycle.  The low rumbling is still the same low rumbling but now there are periodic WHOOSHES of a much higher sound (water going in perhaps???).

One environmental sound I HAVE felt the lack of recently was the voice telling you what to do at automatic supermarket checkouts.  Our local Tesco put in a new self-checking section not long ago, changed the order in which you need to do things and removed some of the written instructions from the screen.  All very frustrating.  Some parts of the procedure are obvious (scan, pay…..) but when did I need to flash my Club card?  On Day Two after switch-on, therefore, when I needed to buy a couple of things, I headed to the self-scanning checkouts and listened.  Sure enough, there it was, a very quiet “Scan your club card now for club card points.”  Oh joy.  Oh rapture.  Exit inanely grinning woman with shopping bag.

This latest paragraph brings me back to speech.  Things are massively better than when I wrote the last post, but the developments merit a whole post of their own, so more on that next time.

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19 thoughts on “In which I stir a mug of tea

  1. Oh Vera. I read this post with a smile 🙂 it’s so great to read about these ‘new’ sounds you are hearing after such a long time. I can only nearly imagine how exciting it must be. You made me laugh with the story about your sneezing! – poor Nigel!
    Wishing you a very happy new year, with many more new and exciting sounds and times!
    Best wishes
    Carly

    1. The story of the sneeze has been added to Nigel’s repertoire of funny stories at my expense. I don’t blame him! All best wishes to you too Carly.

  2. Hi Vera I am so pleased that things are progressing for you long may it continue. The world is a noisy place and we forget that if we don’t have our hearing appliances switched on. I have recently had my hearing aids ‘adjusted’ and can no longer hear the smoke alarm going off, back to the drawing board!

  3. Hi Vera

    I’m so happy for you being able to re-hear all the sounds you’ve missed.

    It’s strange isn’t it, just how sounds fade one by one when we go deaf, as slowly they are no longer heard.

    it’s also strange that when technology, in your case your implant, brings sounds back our brains wonder what they are, and we have to re-train our brains.

    I’ll always remember when I started wearing hearing aids, being able to hear floor boards creaking under my feet, or a crunching sound when I walked on a gravel path.

    The strangest was the first time it rained and I heard raindrops hitting our lounge window for the first time in a long time.

    Ian

    1. Hello Ian. Yes, I think it’s one of the aspects of gradual hearing loss. Sometimes we just don’t notice when things are gradually slipping away, until we are surprised by someone saying “listen to that” (or sometimes “for goodness sake turn off that terrible racket”) and we’ve not heard it. Must be very different if you have sudden hearing loss, which must be far more of a shock to the system.

      I love your example of the raindrops hitting the window. Have a good Christmas.

      Vera

  4. Brilliant Vera! Post-stapedectomy I found our car “rumbles” along the road, the car door “thuds” shut very satisfyingly and I can feel the pressure of the thud in my ear. So many things we have forgotten are rediscovered! Keep up the good work in recovery. Oh and I can hear Elmo barking at 6am in the garden when I let him out and drag him hastily back in – I bet my neighbours will be pleased about my op too! From one inanely grinning woman to another 🙂

    1. Deb, this is wonderful. I’d thought you wouldn’t know if your hearing was improved post-op until after the New Year when you get to put your hearing aid back in. Or have I completely missed the point? (Probably….I’m prone to that).

  5. Thanks for the reminder to listen to a tinkling tea mug, Vera!
    Also, it’s *wonderful* to hear you’ve got some immediate payoff from the implant.

  6. Wonderful isn’t it when you hear sounds you haven’t heard for a long time! The first week was switched on I heard a ambulance siren which had not heard for a long time as they are so high pitched! However, thought it was on same side of road so pulled over to side which must have confused the car behind me as the ambulance passed us on other side of road! 🙂
    However, would like an off switch now on the dog as her barking is very loud!!

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