Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Reluctant Listener

I can hear you better now thanks to two tiny and extremely expensive devices made by Siemens (see left). I’ve been the proud owner of defective ears all my life, and ever since my Dad first noticed that I would say the phrase, “Eh?” 50 times a day, I’ve been told that I should get some hearing aids. Instead, I’ve spent decades straining to pick up the words of those who mumble or speak in whispers. Or at least that’s how they sounded to me and my knackered aural nerves.

Since last Thursday I can hear almost everything, even if now I can afford almost nothing. How many CDs, how much synthesiser technology, and how many Bose speaker systems could I have bought instead? It doesn’t bear thinking about, so instead I concentrate on my Loud New World, where my fingers on the keyboard sound like a plunge hammer in a plastics factory, and where a friend’s casual whistle grates like a feral tomcat caught nuts-first on a sawmill.

Then there’s your conversation, which frankly hasn’t been worth the wait. I’m sure that in my youth, when I was still making the effort to listen, people were talking about more interesting topics. Books they’d read and films they’d seen and revolutions they were planning, and all that kind of stuff. In the intervening 20 years, my generation’s brain-matter has turned to mush, and now we’re pre-occupied with (in approximate order):

1. The width of the aisles in the new Safeways 2. Tomorrow’s weather 3. The minor infringement of child-endangering safety regulations 4. The standard of assisted living facilities in, say, three to four decades’ time 5. That last-ditch resort of the destitute dialogue - this summer’s holiday plans. In fact it’s like listening to a conversation in the barber’s shop, except that it’s non-stop. Perhaps I’ve died without realizing it and gone to a worse place, and this is my punishment for a life spent ignoring others. For eternity, I get to listen to them.

Bird song, at least, is more accentuated. And it befits a man of my experience to point out that the creatures of the sky are sounding much better than the crap my daughters listen to on 99.5 Hot FM. The eldest of the two, by the way, was most disappointed to find out I’d turned my inner volume up, despite having complained for years about me being a deaf old fart.

“It won’t be fun any more,” she said, citing the numerous times when I’ve completely misunderstood something that’s been said, and repeated a version of the sentence so wide of the mark that I ended up as the family’s live-in sitcom novelty act. She’s not the only one not having fun. Instead of a ready-made excuse for avoiding chores and bores, I get to appreciate the hum of the air conditioning unit. Or was that just someone droning on about the price of petrol? The technology’s not quite perfect, so sometimes it’s hard to tell.


The Birdwatcher said...

Mrs BW claims she is going deaf. Perhaps I should get her a digital hearing aid instead of the expensive dress with matching accessories that she wants. Um difficult one. Welcome to the world of sound. At least you can turn it off though.

No Good Boyo said...

Good point, BW. I tune out Mrs Boyo, colleagues, oncoming traffic and intimations of my shallowness with the bossa nova loop that noodles away in my head all day like a colony of bonsai Brazilians.

Gadjo Dilo said...

He! I long for the day when mankind has evolved into a species of 1) deaf, 2) dumb and 3) blind brains in glass jars: 1) no more having to listen to people talk endlessly about themselves or about their unexceptional family members, 2) no more having to explain things to these people, and 3) no more having to look into their blank eyes as they are confronted with the idea that other people may live different lives.

The bonzai Brazilian loop is good. I think I'm tuning into it too.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

Instead of saying to me, "Why don't you get a hearing aid you deaf old git?" my family now, when I ask them to repeat something, looks closely at my ears and says, "Haven't you got them in today?" Sometimes, I point out, it's up to the speaker to speak clearly. Though I've been saying that for years.

I also discovered that I share an audiologist with the lead singer of US heavy metal band Dog Eat Dog. Nope, haven't heard of them either. Very popular in Germany, apparently. But then so is sauerkraut.