Day of the Hearing-Aid – Meanderings of a Quirky Traveller

. . . but by now I am half an hour older, half-an-hour’s walking-distance from home, four-thousand-plus euro poorer, and down-at-heart, being bereft of my two new hearing-aids.

I had sought to be responsible. Ultra-so, in fact. I had made it priority Number One to NOT lose these quietly-resented markers of my growing dependence. My first question to the audiologist had been, after all: “What about losability, sir?”  I had celebrated the new-since-Covid STRINGS to hold the hearing-aids around my neck – “… just like you would your spectacles” he had enthused.

I set myself to religiously follow his detailed instructions, and to read from cover-to-cover the impressive booklet of instructions that was part of the package. And then the question: “Should I or shouldn’t I invest in inSURance?”. Despite my audiologist’s advice, I had found myself estimating that the new “clipping-device” supplied would deal with my anxieties around “losability”, and save a few pennies at the same time.  It seemed that all that needed doing, at the start of the day, was to secure them, by means of the CLICK-reassuring attachment, to the back of whatever top I was wearing. And I knew that I, for one, ALLways wore a Top.

So it was that, on Day Five of my new device, I set out for Mass. The light from the battery-charger had finally turned Green, saying “Ready to Go!” I knew, though, that I was running late, because, on this sunny morning, I also planned to get a wash underway before I left the house. So, having dutifully CLICKed, I allowed the string, with hearing-aids attached, hang over my shoulders for now, and set off, as near quick-march as any half-blind, respectable 74-year old could muster.

My smart-phone had told me the temperature outside was only 12 degrees. So, I pulled on a light jacket, to see myself comfily through my journey. However, as I headed out, and down the railway-walk, my purposeful speed, combined with God’s turning world, to make, ultimately, for an extra supply of sweat. Somewhere between there, and my mounting the off-ramp onto Skehard Road, my left arm being busy ferrying a shopping trolly for later Aldi-shopping, I decided to ease myself out of the jacket, using right arm-and-shoulder’s exertions alone. It was not easy. But by dint of tight-jawed and persistent effort, I eventually managed it, and the jacket hung half-mast from my left-shoulder.

And so, the final lap to Mass!

I arrive at the same time as the priest, take a relieved breath in my seat at the back of the church, and decide that now, with the scriptural Word of God imminent, is an appropriate moment to finally insert the hanging hearing-aids into their respective ear canals. Tip-tapping to right of me, tapping to left of me, I seek my discreet small aids. Very discreet. Very small. I tap and tap and tap, till finally dawns on me the shocking thought: despite all planning, responsibility, and an encouraging CLICK, I have lost my hearing aids en route to Mass, or maybe perhaps at home while pushing my laundry into the washing-machine, or might it be when disrobing myself tight-jawed of my jacket. But where, exactly, did I even do that last manoeuvre? Before, or after the off-ramp?

My conundrum:  To remain mannerly at Mass, or mount an immediate search? It takes two minutes to realize that my thoughts are now bound irredeemably to my four-thousand- euro-plus hearing aids, wherever they are. I get up, reclaim my shopping trolly from outside the church toilet, and set off to retrace my steps. Over tarmac, over concrete, onto grass verges with weeds and wildflowers galore, go me, my feet and my searching eyes.


 The breeze is up, but no sign yet, luckily, of anything light-weight skittering across the ground and into dense invisibility. I try my best to practise mindfulness on my journey homewards – and whenever I fail over a stretch, I teeth-grittingly, eye-peelingly retrace my footsteps, and re-cover the ground.  I concoct a Mantra to keep me focussed: “Where art thou, oh hearing-aid? Oh hearing-aid, where art thou?”

Success is moderate at best. The forecast had said rain at eleven. The audiologist had said “Don’t get it wet.” I know my time-frame is limited. “Where art thou, oh hearing aid?” It’s becoming a prayer.

The half-hour journey home takes full forty minutes, due to back-tracks. No luck! I give myself a cup of tea and a calorie or two, and resolve that the device must indeed be in the house.  Refreshed, and calorie-encouraged, I revisit the drum of the washing-machine. Nothing. I review the ground underneath the swirly clothes- line out the back. Only grass. I mount the stairs, peering earnestly, my heart starting to sink.  Nul point. Into the bathroom then (where I brushed my hair before departure), and into my bedroom (where I applied the CLICK device a mere two hours ago. My final hope.) And still nothing. Nada. Nil and null.

I try to withdraw my mind from its wretched focus for now. If I’ve lost them, I have lost them. I give some minutes to speak to God about the situation – raggedy minutes – but as sincere as I can muster in the circumstances.  I try to broaden my sense of self to allow it include someone capable of losing such little-looking but big-costing aids, and they not yet a week old. I know too well that to earn, I feel unable (being, as I am, in the throes of a summer-long tooth-job, and with one front upper already missing – the gap yawning black, like a doorway into darkness – and being further disabled by my cataracted eyesight.).  To earn I feel unable. To beg I feel ashamed.

So, I turn my attention to reading up the most recent minutes for the LETS meeting which I’m scheduled to chair on Zoom this evening, and I try to enter a world other than that of hearing-aids. Moderate success only here – and short-lasting.

Me and my laptop now jostle unhappily through temptations together. I alert Facebook about my loss, courtesy of the Mahon and Blackrock Community account, though Facebook knows well I am not a loyalty card customer, and, so, it requires a good while for figuring. Lunchtime begins to whisper me alluringly away from my mission.  I do my best to be strong- for a while. Then, pathetic creature that I am, I yield – but with the moral-cushion of a new resolution made to my better self. I will do a SECOND full re-trace of my journey. Those hearing-aids HAVE to be somewhere along the way. And, even if I do not find them, I will have been as highly responsible as any future-listener to my story is entitled to reasonably expect.

Suffice it to say, if only for the sake of brevity and exhaustion: Once again: No luck! A new, almost desperate thought now dangles through the growing dark: What about An Gárda Síochána: those entrusted with the guarding of the peace in this community? Maybe some sharp-eyed, community-minded individual has handed my hearing-aids in.  Or, if not, maybe, a helpful guard will advise me on where else to look. And so, weary and wan, I fetch up at the station. At least we’re not talking Crown Jewels here!

Mirabile dictu, the station is open! And even more mirabile, there is a guard manning the hatch, just waiting for the likes of myself to appear. And mirabilISSime, doesn’t he even recognize me as a local sister. And beyond all these mirabilissimeOSities, I hardly have the words “lost hearing-aids” out of my mouth, when he says in wide-eyed wonder, “It’s got to be divine intervention. It has GOT to be!”

I have not expected any theological angle to emerge from my opening sentence. I beg this gárda’s pardon. Says he to me: “Were you at Mass in Holy Cross this morning?” Says I, “Aye”, though that was, strictly-speaking,  only one-eighth true. Says he, “I was in up Holy Cross too.  I had some business there after Mass.  I overheard Fr. Colin telling Mary in the Office about hearing aids that Janet had found in the Church. He said he had even announced the find after Mass. But no one had come forward. And I told him that was because the person concerned probably wasn’t able to HEAR the announcement, being without the relevant aids.”

I look at the garda, open-mouthed, then ask, “I wonder would it be appropriate to embrace you?”

He grins.

I say: “I have been considering a reward on my way here, if someone re-united me and my hearing-aids. It started at 50 Euro. But, as I got more desperate, and tired, it actually reached 200 Euro in my imagination.  What charity would you like me to give it to?”

He says: “You probably know the charities better than I do. So, you go ahead and decide.”

I say: “It feels like a miracle.”

What else can I say? Cos it really does.

When last I looked, everyone was smiling. Including God.

And the UNICEF children too were happy. They got the reward of 250 Euro worth of food.

And I got a not-so-cheap lesson. Maybe I can even learn . . . Where’s this I put my hearing-aid?

Maire O’Donohoe  OSU

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