A LONG time ago, I lost all my hearing on my right side. This causes me fewer problems than you might imagine but, whenever I meet new people, I have to ask them to stay on my left side because I’m deaf in one ear.
Recently, I’ve noticed, people tend to respond, “Well, I’m deaf in both ears.” This is a strange thing to say, as clearly they are not deaf in both ears or they wouldn’t have heard what I’d said to them. It’s the equivalent of a two-legged man, standing upright, explaining to a one-legged man that he has no legs.
What people seem to mean is they, too, have lost a bit of hearing. In times of confusion, I often looked to the wisdom of my grandad. “Whatever you’ve got wrong with you,” he told me, “there’s always some bugger who says he’s got it worse.” Not long after saying this, my grandad died of bronchitis. The weird thing is, people didn’t used to claim to be deafer than me.
When I first went deaf in one ear, I could be certain people would respond to the news with the baffling consolation, “At least you didn’t go blind in one eye.” That’s true, I guess, but I would have preferred to lose my sense of smell from one nostril, if I’d been given the choice. Which I wasn’t. The other fact people like to share is that they know somebody else who’s deaf in one ear. So do I.
My brother. So what? If I understand correctly, what the world is trying to say to me is: everybody is as deaf as me or (more likely) more deaf, so I’ve got nothing to moan about and, in fact, I should count my blessings as I’d obviously been earmarked (get it?) for partial blindness. But I wasn’t moaning in the first place. I was just asking people to SIT WHERE I COULD HERE THEM.
Because another funny joke people used to make when I emailed or messaged them that I had gone deaf was to reply in CAPITAL LETTERS. Oh, how I laughed. Every single time. The second thing people do is suggest cures for my condition. They ask why I don’t use a hearing aid, just in case I hadn’t thought of that myself. I tell them my deafness is due to neural damage. Hearing aids are amplifiers and, if a nerve that “hears” is dead, there is nothing to amplify. And yes, I am aware of cochlear implants, but an implant won’t help me until the hearing in my “good” ear (which is still pretty rubbish) has deteriorated to a point where it is as bad as mechanical hearing.
Otherwise, it would be too confusing, apparently. The other night I met a bloke whose friend was (of course) deaf in one ear. The friend had been to many unhelpful doctors until finally he found a specialist in something other than ears (I can’t remember what it was,) who diagnosed his deafness as due to a broken bone in the ear. The specialist glued the bone back together and his friend’s hearing was restored. He seemed to be suggesting I should go and see a carpenter. Then, halfway through writing this column, I left to interview a woman I hadn’t met before.
I went through the please-sit-on-my-left performance. She responded with the usual had-I-considered-a-hearing-aid rigmarole. Even though I told her ONE hearing aid would be no use to me, she went on to offer some helpful advice on what I should do if I ever had to wear TWO hearing aids but lost one.