Name-calling – a personal time-line of encroaching deafness
While psychologists might refer to it as ‘selective listening’, the indolence arising from the ignorance of youth, writes journalist Iain Robertson, can soon become a habit enforced by both physical and mental change.
Sitting in a classroom, staring idly through a window, as Mr Dawson intoned another 55 minutes of Latin for language’s sake almost deserved the flying blackboard duster from another age. The shock and a barely audible ‘What the…?’ awoke me from my superheated summertime slumbers, only to hear the barely stifled sniggers from classmates, as the teacher’s world-weary eyes drilled through to my very soul. ‘Caesar adsum iam forti’, indeed!
While I had escaped the Scottish educational tawse, as a result of that connected duster and its tell-tale dusty remains on my temple, to be suspected of ‘not listening’, of ‘not using my God-given ears’, was a ‘J’accuse’ that I never forgot. At the ripe old age of fourteen years and a Grade A swot to boot, I was not given to mental distraction…but the local girl’s school was using our tennis courts…awash with hormones, I was not entirely to blame.
In a later journalistic life, peppered with fast cars, loud music and the burgeoning benefits of fast-changing technology, my student nights spent listening to the weakest of radio signals from Caroline, or Luxembourg, ear-pressing a 9v operated transistor radio into pillow were surely not conducive to providing ear protection. Of course, I had been warned by parents both to turn down the Dansette, to use the monophonic earpiece and never to stick my head out of a railway carriage window at speed, all with the sole aim of protecting my lugs. While I had heard, I had not listened.
Truth is, I was born at the wrong time. I can recall my uncle Basil, who had been tone-deafened by wartime ordnance. He would nod and smile but seldom actually heard what me, or my cousins, said to him. Although my aunt Margaret would sometimes intervene, when we obtained his tacit approval to pop downtown, rather than eat our tea, even then I could perceive the frustration that he caused her and it was hardly his fault. When he passed away a few years later, with what we might describe as Alzheimer’s today, the relief, although it might be awkward to say it, was tangible.
My fascination for many things mechanical led me to racing circuits and the closer I could get to pinging exhausts, basso profundo intakes and the roar of a racing engine the more in touch I felt. I often wondered why ‘Pop’ Hollings, my mechanic, used to don stethoscopes to hear the internal beat of the engine, mostly because he was partially deaf. I was told in subsequent years that he went slightly mad, after retiring. Perhaps I should have perceived the connection. I think I guessed that one existed.
If The Beatles could be said to have inspired an entire generation, then I was its primary target. To listen to George Harrison’s sitar, blended with guitar and drums, with its multi-level musicality, was fine through decent speakers but dramatically enhanced by stereo headphones, especially at high volume. My ears used to ping and tingle but never more so than after attending a concert. While Genesis may be regarded as prog, or even soft rockers, the range of musical tones was as varied as any composition by Beethoven, or Bartok. The louder the better.
Yet, it was all a mistake. The damage was already being done. There were tones that I felt were being lost through a need to have my ears syringed, an aspect exacerbated by cigarette smoking. I was already being asked if I had heard what was being said to me. I was going deaf but I denied it. In Scotland, deaf is rhymed with ‘beef’ and I was already becoming ‘tone-deef’ and nicknamed accordingly.
It is said in some quarters that regret can be the most divisive of conditions. The truth is, I should have not just heard but listened too. It is almost too simple to dismiss encroaching deafness as ‘tinnitus’, which I know to be a most disturbing auditory condition. However, while my present hearing state is borderline at best and I no longer smoke, I do know that hearing aids will be essential for me, in the not too distant future and before I resort to increasing the volume setting on the lounge TV.
The recognition arose from a free test at Hidden Hearing. What had commenced as a journalistic task, morphed into a conditional reality, with the terms of which I would have to become familiar. Yet, as a scribe, knowledge is always my greatest resource and reading about developments in auditory technology has become fascinating. The value of Brain Hearing offers innumerable benefits, from which I hope to be a beneficiary.
Personally, through putting two and two together, I have seen the worst and most damaging effects of deafness on people. Some of them are unavoidably age-related. However, reducing the strain on the brain is a distinctive solution. Across the several medical papers that I have read in just the past couple of months, the gradual slump into dementia that can arise can be avoided by brain-training those parts that manage language and memory. Again, it is too easy to dismiss the inability to recall names, places and things, as being ‘age-related’.
The truth today is that I want my brain to hear. By technologically refining input sounds and occluding extraneous noise, I can perceive an audible future that will obviate a need to seek a cure elsewhere. My ears are not blocked but my brain could become so. To avoid the nicknames, to avoid the conditions, Brain Hearing is the answer.