By Giovanni Graziano
This article is part of My Plan Manager’s guest blogger series.
Bus rides suck at the best of times. But there’s no bus ride more demoralising than the one on the way to a Hearing Australia appointment in the city.
As I sit there in silence, begrudgingly, the early morning sun blinding my eyes as it seeps through the cracks of an open window, I look around and see everyone with their ears plugged. Blissfully unaware and happily distracted by the music streaming directly into their ears, providing them with a dose of dopamine, easing them into the day ahead.
Not me, however, as I sit there awkwardly facing forward, motionlessly, thinking of all the other things I’d rather be doing right now than sitting here in silence. After manifesting as many green lights as possible I finally get off at my stop. I cross the road, check-in, and take a seat in the waiting room of the audiologist. It’s been two years since my last hearing assessment, and I’ve been putting it off for ages.
The lady on the phone remarking when I insisted maybe another time, “Giovanni, it’s been two years: we really need to see you”.
Hearing assessments are daunting, after all, it’s just another test, and I hate tests. But this is a test you can’t prepare for, only hope that you’ll do better than the last time. In fact, the odds are stacked against you the older you get. When I was younger, I was transported to a soundproof room that looks like something out of a psychiatric ward, a heavy bunker door with a twist and lock mechanism, and a setup looking like something out of a 1970s cold war espionage movie. It was so quiet you could hear and feel your own heartbeat. These days, those rooms are reserved for younger children to avoid distractions and ensure the most accurate results, while my assessment is conducted in the audiologist’s office with the humming of the air conditioner serving as a challenge.
Short of being strapped down to a chair, the hearing assessment itself consists of sitting still facing away from the audiologist who hooks me up to some equipment that feeds frequencies directly into my ear.
She hands me a buzzer to press every time I hear a noise. Suffering from sweaty palms at the best of times, I nearly drop the buzzer, the pressure intensifying as the frequencies vary in decibel and length. Often, it’s a question of my own sanity—the sounds so quiet that the brain tricks itself into thinking it hears something. Then comes the word test, where the audiologist covers her mouth so that I cannot read her lips and reads out random sentences for me to repeat the last word of that sentence—often the final word does not correlate with the first half of the sentence so that the word cannot be guessed.
On this occasion, they told me that I’m due for an upgrade as it’s been several years since my last.
As the hearing aids I wear are completely in the canal—that is completely customised to fit only in my ears—a new mould is required. The audiologist mixes a special plasticine like a chemist and inserts it into my ears through a syringe, filling every inch of my ear canal. The pressure causes my eyes to water and for a moment it is completely quiet. True serenity. The plasticine hardens in my ear and is then pulled out forming a perfect mould of my ear, which gets sent off to the engineers at Siemens.
Just like your ears constantly change, so does the technology that fits inside these tiny hearing aids. Next time you see me on the bus, I too will be streaming music directly into my ears, through the Bluetooth function of my new hearing aids connected to my phone.
Giovanni Graziano is an enthusiastic and passionate marketing graduate whose first job at Subway led to the realisation that there are two types of people in this world: those that have worked in fast food, and those that have not. Fuelled by a desire to work in the advertising industry, his interests include fast-moving consumer goods and cinema. Giovanni has been hearing impaired from birth.