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.