When a friend’s granddaughter first noticed that I had something stuck in one of my ears, she asked, “What’s that stuck in your ear?” No beating about the bush with kids. They go straight to the point.
I told her that my hearing in that ear had begun to deteriorate.

“What means deteriorate?” she said.
“Well, the sound I was getting in through that ear wasn’t as clear or as strong as the sound in my other ear.”
“So what did you do?”
“I had my hearing tested,” I said.
“Who tested it?”
“An audiologist.”
“An audio wha’?”
“Was it a woman or a guy?”
“A lady,” I said. “What the hell has that got to do with it?”

She shot a look of mild shock at her mother, and whispered, “He said the ‘hell’ word!”
“O.K., I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I said, “but what has whether it was a woman or a man who tested my hearing got to do with it?”

“Just wanted to know, that’s all. I like knowing things. What did the woman do? Did she cover up your good ear and whisper, and then get louder and louder until she was shouting, and then compare it with your good ear? ”

I thought about this for a moment and realised how logical it was, and not too far removed from the real deal. It reminded me of something that happened years ago, when trains were still being pulled by steam engines. Another little girl said when she first saw an airliner taking off, “Daddy, Daddy, Dickey Puff-Puff!”

Anyway, I now explained the audiologist’s hearing test process to the child who’d asked me about the thing stuck in my ear. It seemed to satisfy her. She settled for calling it my hearing engine. So did I. I corrected her just the once when I said, “It’s a hearing aid.”

She obviously misheard because from then on, for a year or two, she thought it was “for hearing games.” Like the headphones people wear when they don’t want a loud commentary on television drowning out the quiet of a Sunday after lunch.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own