Cirencester Scene October 2017

I heard that – pardon? – by Richard Lutwyche


Hearing aids are wonderful devices and, having misspent much of my youth in operating as a DJ in the 1960s and 70s, I am surprised that I have not yet found the need for one! What? Oh, sorry, I thought you said something.

I’ve never been convinced that these increasingly miniaturised machines work. My first experience of one was as a small child. My Great Aunt Hetty had one. It must have been one of the first to replace the ear trumpet. Although probably then only in her 60s, she seemed truly ancient to me. Her hearing aid was a huge earpiece with wires that hung down to a box about the size of a cigarette packet which she secured to her waist. Being an elderly Scot, she had acquired a delicate pink silk purse in which to house the gubbins.

Great Aunt Hetty preceded Jimi Hendrix by several decades in inventing feedback, but never achieved his widespread popularity. The box in its silk purse would squawk and squeal as she fiddled with the knobs at the same time intoning “I canna hear you, dear…” in her plaintive voice. Her husband, Great Uncle Donald, had enormous sticky-out ears and an equally enormous degree of patience as he would repeat comments to her endlessly until she either heard them above the shrill sound of her tweeting hearing aid, or gave up needing to know.

My father too needed one in his sixties and when he eventually retired he would sit with my mother watching the racing in the afternoon. She was an inveterate chatterer; he an enthusiastic follower of the sport of kings. He knew his bloodstock so well, that he could easily follow the racing with his hearing aid, switched off….

My brother too inherited the Scottish genes from my mother’s side in more senses than one. He did his national service in the Seaforth Highlanders and spent the rest of his life north of the border, mainly in Aberdeen where he served in the police. His hearing deteriorated too and as he passed into his seventies he was often told that his hearing needed some enhancement. Having enquired further, he informed his daughter that there was no way he was paying THAT MUCH for a hearing aid, so she should learn to live with it. She countered that he was increasingly difficult to cope with as he never heard anything anyone said to him.

He compromised quite splendidly. As some of his many friends expired, he would approach the ‘wifeys’ of those who had worn such devices after the wake, and ask if he could have their hearing aid, never being refused. He used them diligently and could once again hear most of what went on around him, or at least that which he considered interesting enough.

When he died last year, my niece found eight such devices in a drawer. I’ve asked her to keep them.  Just in case.