Since giving up work, and retiring to Norfolk, I have noticed something quite strange. This was almost immediate, and happened without warning. My hearing returned. Not that I was deaf, you understand, just unaware how much auditory capacity I had previously lost.
Over ten years of working in Police Control Rooms had meant that I had to wear a headset for 12 hours a day. This was a dual-purpose item, used for radio transmissions, and answering telephone calls too. It was never turned off, so even if other operators were talking, you always heard everything that went on. Meanwhile, you could hear all the talking and shouting across the room, and the noise of the telephone ring signal in your ear, despite whatever else you may have been doing. Other than the occasional headache, I was not really aware of any damage that this may have been doing to my hearing; though on reflection, I was turning up the TV at home by a few notches, and finding myself straining to hear things, from time to time.
There was also the cacophony of London life to deal with. Intrusive sound from neighbours at all hours, roadworks and utility companies digging, traffic sounds, and helicopter flights that would do justice to Saigon in the 1970’s. All part of living so near the centre. I had to suffer it, although I was aware that it was getting worse.
Then I moved to Norfolk. I had removed the headset for ever, traffic was a thing of the past, and there was nobody shouting, at least not visible with binoculars anyway; my neighbours were so quiet, I presumed the houses were empty. Within a few days, I started to hear things.
Not things that were not there, things that were. Rustling of leaves, buzzing of insects, wing beats of small birds, footsteps on gravel drives. The TV volume went down from 25 to 16, reading a magazine seemed noisy, as the pages turned, and I could even hear the difference in the size of raindrops. Hearing is a wonderful thing, and I feel so lucky to have it back.
Recently, as you may have seen in other posts, I gave up smoking cigarettes. This has started to bring back another long lost sense, my sense of smell. As long as I can remember, I could only really smell the most extreme things. I could certainly notice the smell of a dead body, left untended in summer heat for a few days, during my time in the London Ambulance Service; and If I was unlucky enough to step in some dog mess, I would notice that pretty quickly too. However, most everyday smells were lost to me. Fresh bread, sweet smells, perfumes, (unless over-applied), flowers, and even newly cut grass, had all been erased from my nasal functions.
Now, it is beginning to return, and not always for the better. I can now smell Ollie the dog, and wish that I couldn’t. I can smell someone smoking a cigarette on the other side of Tesco’s car park, giving me some idea what I must have smelt like for the last 44 years. I have also almost stopped sneezing. My constant sneezing fits were well-known to friends and colleagues alike. They could go on for a considerable time, often at inopportune moments, and were most embarrassing. They seem to have diminished, presumably having been a side effect of smoking.
So, I can now smell when my dinner is almost cooked without having to physically check on it , and hear the postman on the gravel outside, long before the letters come through the box. Small progress to some, a revelation to me.