Friday, May 15, 2015

Clear As a Bell

Recently, we went for our bi-yearly eye exam. As a result, I bought hearing aids.
Really, there is a connection.

I wear glasses, but the time between needing glasses and actually wearing them is somewhat protracted. I first noticed the need for glasses around the time they ended commercial whaling, when my 20/20 vision began showing signs of fraying around the edges like the cuffs of a well-worn shirt. Naturally, I panicked, and ran to the opticians to get glasses. I wore them for about 20 minutes before deciding the inconvenience wasn’t worth they pay-off; I could deal with frayed cuffs.

Fast forward, oh, twenty-five years or so.

The deterioration of my distance vision is now in danger of shaking hands with my middle-age myopia. I am still going to opticians and still getting updated pairs of glasses and still leaving them in the cases. Over the years I have built up an impressive, if expensive, collection.

Then, during one of my routine optician appointments, I let slip that I didn’t actually wear my glasses. The optician was shocked. She marched me outside and had me look down the street. Then she handed me my glasses and made me put them on.

“See what you’re missing,” she said.

I have worn them ever since.

Fast-forward another half dozen years (crikey, where do they all go?). 

I am at the optician again, waiting for my appointment when my eyes stray to a brochure about their range of hearing aids.

Unlike my eyesight, my hearing has been dodgy since I was a youngster. It started out fine, but I did my level best to bugger it up, and I succeeded admirably considering I lacked the advantage of today’s youth with their ability to mainline 100,000 decibel thrash music directly into their eardrums (NOTE TO SELF: Invest in Hearing Aids Inc.). 

Accordingly, I have had a hearing aid for some time; I just never wear it.

Like my incrementally failing vision, I found I could compensate for the hearing loss, and as it became more pronounced, I compensated more. Occasionally I would try the hearing aid, but after a day or so I unfailingly decided I liked compensating better.

In the optician’s waiting room, however, it occurred to me that, perhaps, I had hit a tipping point—there were several indicators: 
     A) I had increased the volume on the telly until I was in danger of being hit with a noise-abatement order and now rely on the subtitles, and not simply to translate Geordie accents, 
     2) my wife was noticing my voice getting louder and louder and claimed that, in public places, I was all but shouting at her, and 
     Lastly) I myself was becoming wary of leaving the house on my own because I relied on my wife to handle any transactions that required talking to people.

And so, I proposed to give my hearing aid another try and, on a whim, asked for a hearing appointment during my eye appointment so I could assess what sort of progress had been made in the Audio Augmentation Arena over the past decade. I didn’t do this with the intent of purchasing, but that is, naturally, what happened.

My current hearing aid is courtesy of the NHS; the new one is through a private company. If I had gone through the NHS, I would have received an appointment to assess if I needed a hearing appointment, and then, after my hearing appointment, I would have been sent for hearing testing and then, if it was deemed I would, indeed, benefit from enhanced audio stimulation, I would have begun the process of fittings and fiddling and fine tuning—all in all, about an eighteen-month process. 

As this was not the NHS, the time between initial appointment and final fitting was two weeks.

To be fair, it needs to be noted that the NHS process cost me nothing, whereas the amount of money I paid for expediency was just short of heart-stopping.

It was, however, worth it. The audiologist did just what the optician did years ago: after being fitted, we went outside so I could hear what I had been missing; it was astonishing.

When I thought of how long I had been dropping out of group conversations, or sitting, confused, in the movies, or feeling embarrassed at handing over the wrong amounts of cash at the check-out—all because I couldn’t hear clearlyI  didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Don’t worry, paying the bill helped me decide.

The holy grail of hearing aids is to make them invisible, so they keep making them smaller.
I think that's the wrong way to go about it. What they need to do is camouflage them,
make them look like headphones or iPod ear-buds.

Or better yet...

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Modern Anxiety

We have a lot to be anxious about, us modern folk. In ages past, anxieties were more severe, but the anxieties, themselves were fewer in number.

Granted, they were more likely to happen, and the consequences were less forgiving, but once you learned to live with the notion that you might die of the plague, or that the crops might fail, or that barbarians might sweep through the valley, life just pretty much bumped along without any surprises.

Anxieties today, while not as extreme, are many, and like the proverbial straws being piled on the back of the proverbial camel, the accumulation can escalate to lethal proportions.

“Is there enough muesli in the cupboard or should I stop and get more after work?” hardly compares to, “Will the children die of cholera” But if you pile up enough minuscule anxieties, they can still add up to a heart attack, especially if you’re not eating your muesli.

Muesli: eat it or die.
We are such an anxiety-ridden people, it’s a wonder we can face the day. Here is just a sample of things that cause our 21st Century, first-world stress levels to escalate:

Unattended Luggage
Unattended luggage: it's a killer.
Used to be, if you took your eyes off your suitcase, someone would nick it. Now, they call the NSA, the CIA, the FBI, NCIS and a SWAT Team to clear the area, surround it with bomb-resistant materials and blow up the three shirts, two pair of trousers and bag of dirty knickers in your Wal-Mart Carry-on case.

Swarthy Men With Beards
Beards; favored by murderers
Come on, admit it, even this guy makes you a little uneasy.

Expiration Dates
Don't eat it after the Use By Date or you'll die.
Remember back before the government brain-washed us into believing we ourselves don’t actually have the brains to know when the milk has gone off?

Standing Water
Standing Water: touch it and die.
See this fountain? Water used to come close to the edge, but they were afraid some kids might touch it. So they made a border out of decorative stones and kept the water further away. But then they were afraid it wasn’t far enough away, and someone still might touch it. So they emptied the fountain.


Okay. I’ll give you this one.

Slippery Surfaces
Slip and die!
We get the message; one sign would have done it.

Water Vapor
Even if they don't give you caner, they can still annoy you to death.
“I know it’s only water vapor but it certainly looks like cigarette smoke so if I sit too close to it I’m sure to catch cancer and die.”

99.9% of Bacteria
Use it or die.

Because bacteria will kill you...

Not Having Enough of the Other .01%
Yakult: drink it or die.

...except for this kind.

Strong language
It's okay, you can read this, it's safe.
So deadly we have to rely on computer applications to keep us safe from it.

Now stop your worrying and lighten the fuck up! But be sure to eat your Muesli.