River Wissey Lovell Fuller


April 2009

Ian looks at the impact of age on ones hearing.

Look at me when you are talking to me!

I expect many of you who are of my generation will recognise some of the following scenarios:

You visit your grown-up children and their families. Everybody watches the TV with the sound off but, in spite of the silence, they laugh at the jokes and comment upon the content of the programme.

Your partner is mumbling more and more and, if they face away from you when they talk, they become totally inaudible.

When acting upon verbal instructions from your management, your behaviour is sometimes bizarre and they are amazed by your actions, which bear no relation to what they instructed.

You are often surprised by events and spend a lot of time in a state of mild confusion surrounded by people saying "Well, I did tell you about it".

Your children and their families visit your house and complain about the volume on the TV. You were just about to call out the TV repair man because, although the volume is set to maximum on the remote control, the TV set will not respond adequately and insists upon whispering at you, except during the advertisements, of course!

You suddenly become aware that someone is talking to you but you have missed the first sentence or two of their conversation.

You are in a crowded room and cannot hear a word the person opposite you is saying. (Try sticking a finger in one ear - it looks strange but it does help). I have now reached the stage that, if we are in a noisy environment and I cannot hold a conversation, I would rather not be there and tend to retreat into my shell or go outside.

All of the above have been occurring in the Nisbet home over the past few years and Management and I have had to accept the fact that our hearing is not all that might be desired! So, what on earth is happening? In common with one third of people over 65 and 50% of people over 75, Deannie and I are experiencing age-related hearing loss. Otherwise known as presbycusis, this hearing loss comes on gradually and usually affects both ears equally. It is associated with progressive loss of the tiny receptor hairs in the cochlea, part of the inner ear. We are born with about 50,000 of these hairs but they never regenerate. It can run in families and high pitched sounds are the fist to go, making it hard to hear the wife (bad) and children (sometimes good). It is early days yet but recent research in the USA has shown that switching off a certain gene can stimulate re-growth of the cochlear hair in mice and, if this technique could be transferred to humans, we would have a long-term cure for age-related deafness. Loud noises and sounds can be particularly annoying, so I no longer watch "East Enders" where the shouting drives me mad. Age related deafness tends to run in families so any youngsters who have been reading this article need not feel too smug, especially if their parents fit into the above picture.

Deannie and I have developed coping strategies which, to the visiting eye, might appear bizarre. However, they work for us and cause amusement to others so there must be some value in them.

When given instructions by Head Office, I say to her "I heard you say .................." The good response is "Yes, that's right" and I perform as instructed (It's quicker in the long run!). The occasional response is a peal of laughter followed by a repetition of the original request, whereupon I perform as instructed (It's still quicker in the long run!). This strategy was born after I had done some very strange things around the house, as "requested" and Deannie was wondering why the jobs she had actually mentioned remained undone. In fairness to the Management, I have to say that she is immensely patient about those job requests which I have understood perfectly but have not yet actioned. All such jobs require a lot of consideration beforehand, sometimes for months or even years, and it would not be good to rush them.

Also, as hard as I have tried, I cannot find a round tuit anywhere, (I'll do it when I get a round tuit). I know that her patience is wearing thin when she threatens to "get a man in". Maybe, when I have finished this article....

Now, when beginning a conversation with each other, we commence with "One - two". This alerts the other to the commencing conversation and enables concentration from the beginning of the first sentence, not the third!

One of our sons bought us some surround sound to go with the TV. This is great for us but makes the room even noisier for visitors - Hey, Ho!

Of course, this is a temporary phenomenon and neither of us needs a hearing aid. Happily, in the one-to-one situation in the consulting room, I have no problem communicating with the patient, or do I? Are patients coming in with leg pain and leaving with cough mixture? I do hope not.

We were out the other day with a similarly afflicted friend. She said "Windy, isn't it?" to which I replied "No, it's Thursday" and Deannie said "So am I, let's have a drink". A friend of mine bought a new hearing aid. "It's state of the art, cost me £3,000 and it's brilliant" he said. I asked him "What kind is it?" to which he replied "Half past two".

I decided to test Deannie's hearing. She was chopping vegetables and, from 20 feet away, I asked her what was for dinner. No response. The same at 15 feet and 10 feet. When I asked the question at 5 feet, she turned around in exasperation and said "For the fourth time, we are having beef casserole".

Best wishes to you all.

Ian G. Nisbet

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