River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Notes from newcomer

November 2005

Marion takes a light hearted look at deafness.

Did you know that more people are going deaf, and at an earlier age, than ever before? "Pardon?" I hear you all chorus, wittily, but it really isn't a joking matter. Apparently, we can blame the sheer volume of noise that we have to live with these days - traffic, planes, electrical gadgets, music.

Music is the biggest culprit of all, especially for the generation that grew up going to noisy discos and listening to their favourite groups on a Walkman.

So it's not surprising to learn that Pete Townsend, drummer with that roof-raising rock group The Who, now suffers from serious loss of hearing.

The Royal National Institute for the Deaf reports a marked increase of people in their 50s who complain of early onset deafness. Correction: it is not usually the people themselves who complain but their exasperated friends and

relatives who are sick of having to repeat everything they say.

The problem is that deafness is a stigma (just think of how often the phrase, 'are you deaf or are you stupid?' is bandied about) and folk are undertandably reluctant to admit they can't hear properly any more. Instead, they blame others for mumbling and turn the volume up on the TV.

And who wants to wear is a hearing aid with all its connotations of grumpy cartoon characters wielding an ear trumpet. While modern hearing aids are virtually invisible and great claims are made for the latest digital models, it takes quite a long time to learn how to use them. Instead of impatiently shutting them away in a drawer, users should gradually wear them for a little longer

each day, starting with just five minutes at a time.

This all sounds rather gloomy but, having been deaf in one ear for most of my life, I confess that it does have some advantages. One of them is being able to sleep soundly through even the loudest of thunderstorms or Bonfire Night

celebrations. Another unexpected plus is the quirky conversations you have. I like the story of the deaf man who leaped to his feet in horror when his wife, who was standing looking out of the window, said: "There's a man outside with a revolver." Imagine his relief when she explained: " There's a man outside in a Volvo."

And you have to smile at the lady who stopped going to London after she heard on the news that there were a growing number of psychopaths in out capital city. She needn't have worried - the newsreader had said 'cycle paths'.

Marion Clarke

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