Wednesday, 20 August 2008


I didn't pay for them, but I wear two very expensive hearing aids. They're a little delicate and today one of them has had to be sent away for repair - it might be back on Friday. Both ears are clogged up and this afternoon a nurse tried to syringe them, but it didn't work, so now I'm sitting here with refined olive oil in both ears and cotton wool to hold it in and, not surprisingly, I'm now deafer than I've ever been. Even so I can hear through headphones a very woody-sounding version of The Rolling Stones' album, It's Only Rock 'n' Roll.

In June in Arhus, Denmark we visited an exhibition of poster art by Bjorn Wiinblad and amongst the many which caught my eye was this one:

I recall from the accompanying notes that the artist's intention was to show the colourlessness (might not be a real word, but you know what I mean), of being unable to hear. I think he's captured it very well. (I can find no reference to the artist having been at all deaf).

From my teenage years I remember two brothers. The hearing one was particularly caring of his deaf brother despite the occasional fierce rage which would overcome the deaf brother who signed and had no speech. I think it's a safe assumption that those rages were brought about by his frustration at the unheard world into which he had been born. Mind you, such frustration works both ways. Every hearing person knows that being unable to receive communication can surely be annoying, but being unable to effectively send it can be hard work too. (Hmm, so why doesn't the whole world learn Chinese? And why are there often small struggles, some successful too, to preserve dying languages around the world?).

I've always thought that my early slide into poor hearing - the audiologist said my ears are 20 years older than the rest of me - was caused by too much chainsawing without wearing ear defenders, and too much loud music, live or through headphones. What I tend to forget is that as a child I was frequently afflicted with earache and as a teenager was once so very ill that I missed three weeks of school due to mastoiditis, a serious infection of that skull bone behind the ear. It's usually caused by an untreated acute middle ear infection, and before there were antibiotics it was a leading cause of child mortality. Interestingly, I thought, it appears that an allergy to cow's milk is a likely cause of recurrent ear problems. Are we at all surprised that the unnecessarily consumed milk of another very often sickly mammal might cause us to be unwell?

It's still unusual even amongst environmentalists for a connection to be made between the farmed production of milk and the health problems, deforestation, desertification, land mis-use, chemicals mis-use, food miles, methane production, etc. all inherent in that process and all of which are making our planet an increasingly unpleasant place in which to live.