Monday, 26 November 2012

My life enhancing hearing aids

This morning I put my hearing aids in earlier than normal after waking up at 5.30am and not being able to get back to sleep. 

I lay there listening to the sounds of a Monday morning and marvelling at just how loud everything sounds in my flat.

What I could mainly hear however, was the pub around the corner and up the road from me getting a keg delivery. It was making a racket. I'd never heard that in my flat before.

It's been like that a lot recently – hearing things I've never heard before. Yesterday while visiting NikNak and chatting to her in her living room I was aware of some noise filtering through. 'What is that?' I asked her, baffled. 'Church bells!' she replied. I was amazed and I think she was a bit, too. I mean, I can only hear church bells normally if I'm right by the church in question.

It's been a bit of a shock. After all, you know how much I liked my pre-hearing aid world. I think, because I can lipread so well and London is quite a noisy place, I never really thought about what I wasn't hearing. And it's not like I could have told you what I wasn't hearing because I didn't know those sounds existed.

The only thing that really really reminded me that I couldn't hear was the fact that I was completely reliant on subtitles to follow anything on the TV.

But get this...

Again, while at NikNak's house yesterday, there was a Peppa Pig DVD playing on a loop as Mini K was poorly and being a massive Peppa fan, this was taking her mind off things.

At one point the entire family were out of the room doing things except for me and Mini K and so we sat in companionable silence watching precocious Peppa flounce around the screen. And do you know what? I could pick up words. I heard actually words from the TV without any subtitles to give me a clue. I could make out enough to work out what was going on in the world of Peppa Pig. OK, so this is a cartoon with kid's language but it's a cartoon, and you can't lipread cartoons!!

How utterly brilliant is that?!

When my audiologist said my hearing aids would get better over time, I didn't really believe him. I kinda thought it was a ploy on his part to get me to keep them in and give them a chance. But I'm quite excited that in December I can go back for my appointment and tell him that they do work, even though he probably knew that already.

They are not miracles and I am not hearing. I am Deafinitely Girly and always will be. But they are life enhancers. And right now, I'm more than happy to have a little bit of that in my world.

Happy Monday peeps!


Friday, 23 November 2012

Hearing the rain

Today is Thankful Friday and I'm thankful for the way that each of my individual friends inspires or teaches me something.

Lesson one was from Miss H in the art of confrontation, after an old lady was rude to us in a café on Monday. You see, this café is amazing but as a result it's also always rammed. We queued politely to get to the counter where we ordered our food and prayed a table would become available. Then all of sudden a table became available. But quick as a flash the old ladies behind us went and put their coats on the seats, effectively reserving four places for just them. We naturally, with nowhere else to sit, and after checking there were really just two old ladies, went and moved their coats to just two seats and sat down. 

The first old lady scuttled over a few minutes later and started on Miss H. 'You've taken our place that we reserved,' she ranted as I struggled to follow what she was bleating about. Miss H sweetly replied that it really wasn't the kind of place where you could reserve seats and we continued our lunch. The old lady then started saying we'd taken the whole table by putting our coats on the seat by Miss H, but mid rant she was stopped by her friend who pointed out that the coat and bag she was referring to was in fact hers. Finally, the first old lady shut up and sat down. But what I found amazing was how Miss H stood her ground. She was polite but firm and the whole episode did nothing but present the old lady as a rude old bag who though age gave her the right to walk all over the younger generation. It does not.

My second lesson was about happiness and came from Fab Friend who paid me an impromptu visit this week after locking herself out of her flat.

She's recently been to India -– first to Mumbai on business and then to Goa for a yoga retreat – and as I was listening to her talk about everything, I was utterly inspired by her attitude to life right now. She's doing amazing, exciting and sometimes downright terrifying things all the time, she's challenging herself and she's happy.

Lesson number three came Uni Housemate who stayed with me while in town on business this week. As we chatted about the things that were on my mind she gave me the most fabulous peek at the other side of the grass and reminded me how the grass can be green on both sides you know.

And Lesson number 4? Well that came from me. Recently I've found myself feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the changes happening around me. But last night, as I was sat on my sofa, I started to wonder why I couldn't hear the TV anymore. There was the most insane noise coming through my hearing aids. I sat there for a moment listening to it before finally realising it was the rain. I could hear actual rain from inside a house. Wondering if it was particularly noisy rain, I took out my hearing aids, and it went quiet, then I put them back in and the amazing clattering, battering, syncopated rhythm of the rain came clamouring through again. It was amazing, and as I continued to listen, I was reminded that while change happens its not always a bad thing.

My hearing aids are changing my life. And that makes this a very Thankful Friday.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Bye bye internet dating

Yesterday I closed my online dating profile and breathed a big sigh of relief. 

It was for the best really. My heart wasn't in it. My head wasn't in it and my diary certainly wasn't having a bean of it. I realised halfway through writing an email to Trifle Man that suggesting meeting in January probably wasn't going to be conducive to getting to know each other and that I was wrong to keep putting him off. However, that doesn't really explain why he felt the need to reply with a picture of himself sat on a horse.

Anyway, I've ventured into the world of online dating several times since I move to London as a wide-eyed graduate 10 years ago. Through online dating, I've also met some lovely people such as Wise Friend and GBman, both of whom I am still good friends with. But perhaps that's where I'm going wrong. I mean, I love that I now know Wise Friend and GBman when otherwise our paths would never have crossed, but really I seem to be a success story only when it comes to Internet Friending.

I am rubbish at the dating part of things...

Take the time the guy told me about his IBS and lengthy toilet trips in the second minute of our first conversation, just as I bit into a chocolate brownie (the rest went straight in the bin). Or the guy who told me that he liked me but I had to make all the effort as he was done doing that with girls then asked me to get him a pint. I calmly walked to the bar and then just kept on walking, into the night, muttering under my breath like some crazy lady in complete disbelief that men like that actually existed. 

Then there was the one who asked me how long my longest relationship was, then proceeded to tell me I was obviously a commitment phobe and was I aware of this? 'You're the one who's pushing 45 and acting like a 23 year old,' I wanted to scream. But instead I ordered a very overpriced gin and tonic at the very overpriced bar he had chosen before excusing myself of his company and the bill and getting the bus home.

I could go on, but it only gets worse. There was the man who was so insanely boring that I fell asleep at the bar where we were drinking and only to wake up when my head hit the table and find he hadn't actually noticed. And the man who when I told him I was deaf, after we had met in a particularly loud and dark bar, simply made his excuses and left, *sniff. And then there was the one who decided that we were going to get married and live happily ever after before I'd even agreed to meet him for a drink. Needless to say the drink never happened.

Internet dating is not all about the horror stories – I have proof of this as several of my happily married/engaged friends met this way. But I don't think it's the way for me. I can't do the whole small talk with strangers over email any longer. I don't want pictures of men with trifles cluttering up my inbox or guys telling me I must be a commitment phobe (although it may well be true). I don't want to be judged on my deafness, my height, weight or personality from afar, or in person on the first meeting and I know don't want to be the person who does that either, because honestly internet dating does make you a little judgey…

So I'm stepping out of cyberspace and into reality.

And as long as no one emails me a picture of themselves with a trifle, it should all be ok… (I. MUST. STOP. BEING. JUDGEY)

I'll keep you posted.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The power of (deaf) Twitter

Every day I am more and more amazed by the power of Twitter.

Twitter – in all it's 140 characters of sometimes hilarity, sometimes abuse and often just random chatter – is becoming quite a fixture in my life.

But not just in a way to showcase my latest baked goods or banter with some of my favourite Twitter peeps – come back soon @grouchotendency – but in a way of finding out stuff, accessing information that I would otherwise struggle to access and get things done where once, only a phone call would do.

Take yesterday for example. I finally took the plunge and applied to Thames Water for a water meter. After all, there is only me in my flat, I don't have a dishwasher, I take showers not baths, and I do one load of washing a week. I even brush my teeth with the tap turned off. So I had begun to resent paying so much for water, when I clearly wasn't using it.

I applied online for the meter. It was compulsory to put your phone number and email address and when I hit send, I got a notification message that someone would be calling me to arrange a home visit to check whether my house was suitable for a meter.

'Bother' I thought, dreading that unrecognised number flashing up on my telephone and I immediately tweeted about this issue and thought nothing more about it.

But then, this morning, I received a tweet from Kirsty @ThamesWater asking me if there was anything she could do to help – she'd obviously seen my indirect mention of Thames Water from the previous day. I told her my predicament and she started following me on Twitter so that I could DM her my details. 

As a result of this, there is a now a note on my details making sure that I am only contacted by post and email and apparently also, there is a letter about someone coming to check whether it's possible to have a water meter fitted and appointment times. So no phone calls will be needed.

Amazing huh?

All that from Twitter.

It's not the first time I've sorted something that I'd otherwise need the phone for. The marvellous peeps on the @o2 Twitter feed sorted out my home broadband, if I tweet that I'm not well, friends will offer to ring the GP, and when I locked myself out of my flat, lovely peeps as far away as Edinburgh offered their ears to make calls for me. 

And let's not forget last Friday evening when my First Great Western train was diverted via Bath and Bristol. Unable to hear the announcements, I tweeted @FGW and the lovely Ollie got straight back to me explaining that the diversion and delay were due to signal failure.

When I joined Twitter all those years ago, I thought it'd be fun – a way of spreading the Deafinitely Girly word. But what it's becoming more and more is a way to help me live my life – a productive, informative, phone-call free, deaf-friendly way.

That and a way to win books – since I've joined Twitter, I have won a lot of books.

Twitter doesn't have to be about trolling or controversy. It's possible to turn it into a little information machine, another pair of ears in a very un-deaf-friendly world. People like @Kidsaudiologist who advised me when I had a hearing wobble or @paulbelmontesli who offers advice on everything from chocolate to well, everything actually.

I never thought it was possible. But it really is.

And let's not forget half the guest list for my Accidental Wedding in April is coming from Twitter. Including @KatieFforde who is my maid of honour – who I met on Twitter because of my love of cooking.

Thanks to my First Great Western delay I bashed out more than the first two chapters of The Accidental Wedding on the train last Friday…

Better get writing faster though if the wedding's in April really, hadn't I?

Save the date peeps! Save the date!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Hearing aid update: my flute and Paper Aeroplanes

Yesterday was a music-filled day and I loved it.

You see, since coming home on Friday evening after work, broken from my week of partying, I wasn't able to get the amazement that I'd been able to hear my neighbour's daughter playing her flute in the downstairs flat.

I mean, if I could hear that flute, then surely I'd be able to hear my own.

So yesterday afternoon I decide to locate my flute and all my sheet music, both of which were buried right at the back of my spare room underneath the bed, where I hid them to try and dull the sadness I felt at not being able to play anymore when I moved in three years ago.

I loved my flute. As a violinist from the age of 6, I begged the rents to let me play the flute too, but my amazing flute teacher-to-be said I had to be 10 years old so that I was big enough to reach the keys without constricting my rib cage and breathing.

On my 10th birthday I had my first lesson. It was love at first hear and I flew up the grades.

When I lost more hearing in my teens, I just ploughed on through, playing my pieces an octave lower until I knew the tune then dealing with the silence the higher notes brought.

When I moved to London I sought out a teacher. He was amazing. He taught me sound visualisation so that I got the right diaphragm pressure to create the high notes I couldn't hear.

But instead of being happy, I found myself being a ball of emotion in my fortnightly lessons. I cried frequently, sometimes out of sadness but mostly out of frustration that I was no longer getting the same enjoyment from my flute.

It affected everything and I could feel a growing resentment for my deafness – something I'd fought hard to overcome, so in the end I stopped my lessons and banished the flute to the depths of my underbed storage.

So you see, really, yesterday wasn't really just about seeing whether the Sound Recover on my new Phonaks was going to help me get my flute back.

I started with some trepidation, warming up with a few Bach studies and Morceau de Concours by Claude Arrieu. The sound came. My lungs seemed horrified at the breathing I was asking them to do.

And the sound?

Well, I think I could hear the Sound Recover function's adjustment of the higher notes but the problem was, these weren't moved into a harmonious place, the notes were jarring with the pitch of the note I was actually playing.

It was so frustrating.

It would be like playing a piano piece with the left in the correct key and the right hand a semitone apart from what it should be. It was not pretty.

But it made me wonder – and if any knowledgeable hearing aid peeps could answer this I'd be eternally grateful – can the Sound Recover be moved so that the notes come out in harmony or even better an octave lower? Is there anything I can do to improve this? Or is it something that will improve over time?

What I can confirm is that yesterday I enjoyed playing more than I have done in a long time. My hearing aids definitely made the music better and because of this, I played better. I wasn't nearly as rusty as I'd thought I'd be and practising the fast-moving high bits was easier and more rewarding because I wasn't just hearing nothing. OK, it was a slightly out of key Sound-Recovered pitch, but beggars really can't be choosers.

Then yesterday evening, I went to see Paper Aeroplanes – a Welsh band – at The Lexington with HB. I first discovered Paper Aeroplanes after Shazam-ing a song of theirs and it too was love at first listen. They're splendid. And yesterday, they didn't disappoint.

Cautiously I wore my ear plugs for most of the gig, still terrified from my Pavlov's Dog experience, but for the encore I took out my ear plugs and put in my hearing aids and it was wonderful. Notes shone through, lyrics became a little bit easier to lipread and I was in audio heaven. 

As I drove home along the Marylebone Road, singing at the top of my voice to my booming stereo, I marvelled at how much I love these little pieces of technology adorning my ears. I love them in a way I never expected. They're enhancing my life on a daily basis, and I'm not even at the 12-week mark yet.

Now all I have to do, is get Sound Recover at the correct pitch spacing. Perhaps I should just take my flute to my next hearing appointment.

I mean, that wouldn't be weird at all, right?