There’s a brilliant book called ‘The Tent, the Bucket and Me’ by Emma Kennedy, which tells of her childhood camping experiences. Now, I don’t profess to have any of her talent or wit, but I did recently go camping and I thought I’d share the trials and tribulations of camping as a hearing aid user and I have to say that I foresaw none of these difficulties.
Given that I get on with my life without proactively thinking abut my hearing aids on a day-to-day basis (beyond making sure I have spare batteries in every handbag and every coat pocket), I was not prepared for how much harder camping would make communicating.
Firstly, there’s the car journey, which has its own challenges like any car journey does: the noise of the road, the one-sided direction of conversation, the external noise if the windows are open, the radio (never switched on by me unless driving alone) and so forth.
Then there’s checking in at the campsite. Like checking in at a hotel reception, this can be as smooth or as tricky as any interaction with a stranger but this exchange was particularly trying as the young man who checked us in spoke very quickly and wouldn’t make eye contact. Had he paused for breath, I may have mentioned I was a lip-reader but I didn’t get the chance.
Putting a tent up with someone with hearing loss presents its own challenges (apparently), so I left Chief Tent-Erector to it and took the dog to stretch her legs. (OK, I was sulking a bit. He didn’t want to have to keep repeating where to put what or have to shout but I’d wanted to help…)
Once the tent was up and everything was unpacked, it was time to start barbecuing. There were kids running around squealing with delight as they played a chasing game; there were dogs barking in the distance and the general chatter from some self-important middle-class husbands/fathers by the nearby tent. It was not altogether relaxing.
I hadn’t realised how much my ‘good hearing’ (with aids in) is due to acoustics and now, outdoors, I was coming unstuck. I was having to ask for everything to be repeated and even then I was struggling. It made me grumpy and on edge.
The upside of hearing loss is that once I’d taken out my hearing aids, I could fall straight to sleep, unlike my partner who was kept awake by the noise of the other campers.
The next morning, I went for a shower. As I have occasional balance issues, I used the disabled access facility which had a grab rail. It was one big room with a shower and toilet. The facilities were basic (but better than the mainstream facilities) but the issue I’d not foreseen was how steamy the room would get. When I turned off the shower and saw the amount of condensation on the glass shelf where my BiCROS aids were, I started to panic. Thankfully, there was no harm done.
We then headed into a nearby town. It’s a touristy spot and the weather was nice so there was a constant stream of traffic along the road. I found it impossible to walk along and follow a conversation at the same time. I was really struggling. I started to withdraw into myself.
When it came to lunchtime, I stressed that I needed to find somewhere quiet as I was really getting worn down by the constant traffic noise (even with the ‘Speech in Noise’ setting activated). We found somewhere slightly off the main road and took a seat in the garden. I nipped to the loo and found that inside the cafe was an oasis of calm. I asked my partner if we could relocate. He was happier outside but could see how much I wanted to move so he acquiesced and we went inside. It was cool and quiet and I started to relax. Sadly, music started and we rolled our eyes to the ceiling.
Back at the campsite, we had a walk around and we looked on enviously at a pitch out on its own in the woods: no other tents nearby. Yes, that’s the one we’ll book next time. Alternatively, there’s a lovely yurt for hire and I bet it has better acoustics than a tent.