I have been wearing hearing aids all my life, I was born deaf.
I grew up learning to adapt to new sounds and listening from the hearing aids.
But as we all know, hearing aids don’t last forever which means new upgrade, new sound quality, new everything. I have been wearing behind the ear hearing aids since I was a baby. I have had these particular old hearing aids for 10 years.
Ten-year-old hearing aids plus lifestyle changing equals different sound quality and environment. I can say for sure it’s a huge difference and improvement when switching from these old hearing aids to these new ones.
We’ve all talked on this blog about how different the perception is between viewing aids (better known as glasses) and hearing aids (better known as “my ears” by people wearing them, and as “prosthetics” by people seeing them). A few months ago we were on holiday at the beach — don’t let me get me started on Corsica, one of the finest places in the world. We spent two weeks there; every day we’d go to the beach and dive among schools of fish.
Without my hearing aids, discussions on the beach were some approximate gibberish mixed with outcries from happy children playing around, the buzz from some distant sea scooters, the splashes, the regular pounding of waves. In fact I heard less than half the conversations. But you know how beach conversations go: most of the time it’s more chit-chat than life-changing decisions, so I didn’t really mind and decided to let go. I love reading books on the beach anyway.
When I was thirteen years old, I loved horror movies. The scarier, the better. Bring on the bloodbath, and the ghosts and the ghouls. The louder you could scream, the harder I would laugh. Nothing in a horror movie could scare me, and I wanted to see the most shocking, frightening things possible. Sadly, my brother was terrified of horror movies, so I could not get the R-Rated ones into the house. No matter how hard I tried, he’d tell Mom and Dad, and I’d be forced to put them back. With a little bit of quick thinking and the line, “it’s only PG-13”, however, I managed to see The Grudge in the summer of 2005.
That summer was a series of firsts. Along with my first time succeeding in getting a horror movie back home, it was also my first summer with a functional eardrum and working two different jobs.
Since losing all my hearing in my left ear suddenly in 2011, I’ve suffered with bouts of sensitivity to sound. Ordinarily, I manage this by retreating to a quiet room or going to sit in the garden (if the weather’s decent). I read a book, write something, or distract myself with social media – or I sit quietly with our dog, Tilly, brushing or stroking her and generally trying to relax.
Sometimes, I take out my hearing aids for a bit, other times, I switch them to ‘Comfort in Sound’ or ‘Speech in Noise’ but, usually, I manage to ride it out without getting too distressed by it all.
Today, it’s World Usability Day. More than a hundred events will be held around the world by passionate people — I am one of them — who believe that usability is key.
Usability is about making products, even complex ones, easy to use by everyone. Of course, that is the ideal goal and you would probably agree with me that we are really far from it! It’s even worse: it looks like appliances like ovens became less usable in the past years. A few years ago I shot a 2-minute video showing a well-known Swiss politician explaining how he struggled with his new unusable oven. This was part of a project launched during World Usability Day 2006. The video (in French) is still available on Dailymotion.
Unfortunately, the oven is an example among thousands of others. Ironic as it sounds, I am writing these lines on a PC which is far from being a model of design and usability — I wish I could use my Macbook at work! But I am unfair. My PC is far better than my unengaging desktop phone. By the way, do you know why we, employees of companies and public bodies around the world, seem to be condemned to use these horrible phones ? How did they survive to the iPhone era?
An ambulance siren wails — and then another — it’s a piercing, high-pitched howl which cuts into my consciousness like a knife stabbing into my head. Slowly, the sound recedes but it is replaced by the peel of the bells of the cathedral, the clip-clop of the horses’ hooves and the rattle of cartwheels over cobbles. I’m on a city break to Florence and the noise is deafening and, at this very moment, I couldn’t have regretted this trip more.
Every Vespa’s engine noise is like a slap around the head. Each time a bus’ air brakes sound, I feel like I’ve been punched. This constant noise pollution is an assault on the senses the likes of which I have never known. It’s exhausting and terrifying in equal measures.
From what I can gather, parks and quiet spaces are hard to come by in this city: it’s not like Paris (ah, Pa-ree!) where you can readily escape to the peace and tranquillity of a public jardin at any time. This is Florence and I’m finding it pretty ‘full on’.