Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hearing and Understanding

"Of course," said my mother, "some people smoke and never seem to have any ill effects, like me."

Well perhaps not. Apart from the massive stroke that nearly killed her, that is.

Both my parents smoked - as nearly everyone did in those days - until my mother was pregnant with me, and then they both stopped.

My mother had a life as a Secret Smoker in her fifties and sixties, though, and like all secret smokers, she thought we didn't know. But we did, because all secret smokers smell of smoke. We just didn't let on that we knew, in the hope that she would smoke less if she was doing it secretly.

Then she had the stroke, when she was sixty-eight, and never smoked again, but still hasn't quite grasped that smoking is a major cause of strokes. Her father had a stroke too, so it does run in the family - - but then again, he too smoked, because everybody - - or very nearly everybody - did.

Fast-forwarding a number of years, my mother went to the doctor and explained that she couldn't hear very well.

After a lot of faffing about and a few appointments, they gave her some sparkling new digital hearing aids and fiddled about with the settings until they thought that they were the best possible settings for her hearing.

The bit that everyone seemed to miss in all this, was that it's not just a hearing problem. Although you can't tell from looking at her, or even from listening to her, she often just doesn't process the information fast enough to take it in - and that's because of the stroke.

Partly because she was Superfit Superwoman at the time, she made a fantastic recovery from the stroke, and as a result people can't tell - unless they've read her notes more carefully than they ever seem to - that she ever had a stroke.

So the hearing aids didn't help as much as she hoped they would. Also, she never left them in long enough for her brain to get used to them. As soon as a car went past and it made a loud noise, she would whip our her hearing aids in a fury, because she didn't want that kind of noise.

When she was in hospital with the broken shoulder, one of her hearing aids got cleared up with the rubbish. Hospitals, infuriatingly, just don't seem to have any facilities for keeping track of small, easily lost and vital objects for elderly patients who might not be terribly good at keeping track of them themselves.

The other hearing aid, sensing its days were numbered, dropped to bits soon afterwards.

That was, of course, in November. And now, in April, she's finally got an appointment at the Audiology clinic to get some new ones.

I have a feeling that it will be the same problem all over again. They won't be able to adjust them well enough. The batteries will always be flat. The hearing aids will make the wrong things too loud, and she still won't be able to hear speech very well.

I think, sadly, the problem is that wonderfully clever modern digital hearing aids, when matched up with many very elderly people, are not a good mix. An old-fashioned ear trumpet would probably do just as well.

Mum is going to the hospital on her own tomorrow. I was planning to go with her, but she insists she'll be fine - she knows I have masses of work to do, and is feeling rather independent, and this is probably a good thing. And at least if she's on her own, they will have to talk to her and not to me, and they may perhaps - though I doubt it - begin to realise that it's not simply a hearing problem.

Next week my mother will be eighty-six and she's truly amazing for her age. But - and here's the thing that she doesn't want to hear - being eighty-six is just terrible, in many ways. Though, of course, far better than the alternative.


Anonymous Writeous Indignation said...

It would seem this is a smack bang relevant post to me at the moment.
My gran smoked all her life, although not heavily, and made it to 86. But four weeks ago my Dad died of lung cancer at just 74; these days, with no other health problems, there was no reason to expect he didn't have another 10 years, at least. A quick glance at obit columns tells you that people dying in there 70s is becoming the exception rather than the norm.

Mephedrone has been banned 'because it has been linked with 4 deaths'. But do the government have the balls to ban smoking, linked to hundreds of thousands of deaths? No. Oooh it makes me MAAADDD!

5:52 pm  

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