Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

24 August 2009

Hard of Hearing? Buy a New Telly

‘What are “genital au pairs”?’ I asked my wife. (I, having lived a sheltered existence, thought something exciting might be passing me by).


‘“Genital au pairs”, they just said it on the telly.’

‘Jennifer Lopez.’ She interpreted, shaking her head in disbelief.

That’s when I realized that my hearing was packing up and that if I wasn’t careful I might innocently get into big trouble.

So I called in at my doctor’s rooms and he got one of his practice nurses to do a hearing test.

‘What do you reckon?’

‘Were you an artilleryman by any chance?’

She explained that I had the hearing of a 70-ish year-old whose ear drums might have been modified by the percussion of gunfire. Interesting: I told her that I’d never actually fired a howitzer but I had been in a Royal Air Force rifle team when I was about nineteen.

She then informed me that if my hearing had been impaired while serving in the British armed forces I might qualify for assistance with the cost of hearing aids. Subsequent investigations via an audiologist led me to fill in form WPA0001 to submit to a remote department of UK War Pensions in which I described a time over fifty years ago…

‘… I served in the Royal Air Force from 1951 to 1953 (Service number 2513297). I did quite a lot of .303 Lee Enfield rifle and bren gun shooting… Specifically, I shot for a Technical Training Command rifle team… Every time I fired a rifle I experienced not only short term deafness (improving over about three or four hours) caused by explosions but also pain; the percussion of explosion caused actual pain in my ears. We were neither issued with protective ear muffs nor allowed to stuff wadding or cotton wool into our ears…’

To give them their due, without much delay they shouted me a hearing test from a top Auckland audiologist who, completing the examination, confirmed that I was suffering typical delayed gunfire symptoms. ‘However, I have to tell you that your hearing is not bad enough for the Brits to pay for hearing aids.’ And he went on: ‘What’s more, as you age and as your hearing deteriorates further you will still not qualify because the goal-posts move inexorably beyond any extension of charity to your case.’

Well, of course. Don’t they always?

He then asked me if I wanted to have hearing aids.

I’d already given this some thought. Asking around I had gained the impression that those of my friends who use them often find them more nuisance than they’re worth; especially when among groups, at a party, or in the ambient babble of a restaurant. I had been warned, too, that they could cost big bucks - indeed, up to several thousand dollars. Thus, even before I learned that any UK-funded instruments were a forlorn hope, I had decided to take an alternative course of action.

I bought a new TV set. This big silver monster, at a price well below half of a pair of hearing aids, has a big flat screen, brilliant pictures, and above all the facility to manipulate its sound tone. Where my old telly had had no tone controls, the new one not only has settings for speech, music, movies and multi-media but also a graphic equalizer that allows me to minimize the duller and sharpen the upper frequencies. I can hear it - perfectly

‘What a good idea.’ the audiologist enthused when I told him about it. ‘Money well spent, I’d say. So, no hearing aids then?’

‘Not yet.’ (I didn’t tell him that a mate of mine who’s quite a bit older than I has agreed to leave his to me in his will.)

Meanwhile, with my shiny new TV I’ve now got a real handle on Jennifer Lopez: she not only looks good but sounds right, too - and that goes for her name. ‘Genital au-pairs’, I must have been mad.


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By Don Donovan