In a queue of buses, I was amazed to not only hear what my neighbor was saying but to also the words and phrases being spoken by the one on the other side.

Was this really possible? Could I have suddenly had mystical abilities in my late years to be able hear private conversations and receive them?

My new, high-tech hearing instruments picked up the sounds and played them to my ears.

This in itself was a strange sensation, as previously I could not hear my own phone conversations clearly, let alone anybody else’s.

Standing in a bus queue, I was astonished to hear not just what the person next to me was saying on his phone, but what the person on the other end was saying, too, writes Liz Hodgkinson

As I stood in the bus line, I was amazed to not only hear what my neighbor was talking about on his smartphone, but also what the person at the other end of the queue was saying. Liz Hodgkinson

As most people who are extremely vain, I have put off hearing testing for years.

My hearing had been steadily deteriorating over the last ten years. But I kept telling myself I still could hear. The hearing loss came so slowly that it was difficult to live with.

These beige-colored things were worn by great-aunts. They made me vow to not wear them.

However, in July of this year my husband told me (no one else would dare), that he must shout at least twice to make it clear to me what he is saying. So I decided that it was time for me to have a hearing evaluation and, if needed, to admit I need hearing aids.

It was more than just an age-related hearing loss. Tinnitus is a distressing condition in which you experience constant buzzing and ringing in the ears. There’s no cure.

It had been gradually deteriorating for about ten years, but I kept kidding myself that I could still hear well enough, thank you. And the hearing loss happened so gradually I thought I could live with it

My hearing had been steadily deteriorating for around ten decades, but I kept telling myself I still could hear, thanks to you. It was so gradual that I believed I could manage it.

I didn’t buy tapes with whale sounds or white sound, two of the most common remedies for tinnitus (of which six million are in the UK according to the British Tinnitus Association). These are said to cause a calm and meditative state, which can help you forget about your symptoms.

And while tinnitus did not initially affect my hearing — for several years I could still hear perfectly well — over time the buzzing in my head became louder, and then, as actual hearing loss began to set in, the outside noises became quieter until in some cases I could not hear them at all.

It was getting increasingly hard to hear the doorbell, or have a conversation over the phone. It became impossible to understand what other people said in a noisy room filled with background noises.

Finally, I found a private clinic recommended highly by a friend.

Although I knew the cause of my tinnitus was irreversible, I still hoped that I could hear better with hearing aids.

Tim Johnson, the chief audiologist of the clinic, ran a series if tests on me and announced to me that I have 48-to-50 percent hearing loss.

Tim said that while he couldn’t do anything about the ringing in my ears, he knew that modern hearing aids would help me get back to hearing.

I tried them in the clinic first and once they were in, Tim went out of the room and asked if I could hear him speaking when he was outside the door. Yes, I could! Previously I had not been able to hear people in the same room. One of the devices is pictured above

The first time I tested them was in the clinic. Tim immediately went out and asked if he could speak to me outside of the door. Yes! I could hear other people, but not before. Above is one of these devices.

He recommended aids that aren’t available through the NHS, and they were very costly.

But when he explained how they worked and showed me what they looked like, I was converted — even though I still struggled to admit that I had now become an old lady (I’m in my 70s) with hearing aids. 

They are approximately the same size and shape as a paperclip. The tiny buds attach to each ear. (There were seven colours to choose from and I went for chestnut; the nearest to my — dyed — hair colour.)

After being inserted correctly they become invisible and connect to your iPhone/iPad. It means that you are able to listen to music clearly and see movies without straining your ears.

(In fact, with the phone, you don’t even need to hold it to your ear; the sounds are ‘beamed’ in, as it were.)

It was truly a revelation to finally hear what was being spoken.

They were first tried in clinic. Tim then went outside and asked me if I could hear Tim speaking from the other side. Yes! I could hear other people, but not before.

There are also some downsides. Every night I must take the aids out and place them on the charger. This is easily done but it has to be remembered as otherwise the aids won’t work in the morning. It takes some practice to put them in.

Then, let’s talk about the price. These Phonak aids, made in Switzerland, cost me £5,300. Although not everyone can afford them, I was told they would make a huge difference in my life. These things have happened.

It takes some time to learn how they work. Not only was it a very noisy business eating my breakfast — snap, crackle and pop became snap, crackle and bang — but sheets of paper scrunched loudly when I picked them up or turned a page, and I thudded up the stairs as if in hobnail boots.

It was like I was entering the sound world again. What if everything was as loud as it used to be when I had great hearing?

I was reminded of this line from a Spike Milligan poem: ‘What a noisy place to belong, is the Ning Nang Ning Nang Nong!!’

If the cows didn’t now go bong, the birds certainly set up a racket in the hedgerows.

Two weeks later, I was able to return to the clinic to have another evaluation and to make any adjustments if necessary.

This was the second creepy discovery. Tim Johnson opened his laptop and told me I’d been using the aids an average of 8 hours per day. He also said that I’d made many calls and listened to music while driving, and that the iPad had spent hours in my car.

As his Bluetooth connects with my device, he said that he was able to tell me what I was doing and hearing.

I explained to him that while phone conversations were previously difficult and are brilliant now, it was impossible for me to hear people in regular exchanges.

‘That’s because I undercooked you, to allow you to get used to the aids,’ he said.

‘I am now going to turn up the volume so that you will hear people better.’

While I do hear people clearly, the effect on my hearing is not the only one. The other side effect is that outside sounds like traffic, for example, can be heard even more.

It’s science fiction! More importantly, what is his belief about the cause of the tinnitus.

‘In some cases, it can be caused by sinusitis in earlier life,’ he said. ‘If you create problems with the Eustachian tubes [which connect the middle ear to the nasal cavity], you gradually hear noise less outside and more noise inside.’

In my 20s, I actually had very severe sinusitis.

‘For tinnitus sufferers, as time goes on, the auditory pathways become damaged and the sounds we are used to go away,’ Tim explained.

This means that you are left with just the internal sounds — the brain ‘tricks’ itself into hearing buzzing and ringing to fill the gap. You can’t hear any buzzing or ringsing.

‘You had significant hearing loss,’ he informed me, ‘but with the aids, you will become ever less aware of the tinnitus inside your head.’

He was correct. It seems that the tinnitus disappears when the aids have been in. However, it comes back when I remove them (also because they can’t be worn in bed and cannot be used when you swim or shower).

‘With these hearing aids,’ Tim said, ‘you are investing in quality of life.

‘Cosmetics — how they look — are important, as if you are conscious of wearing aids, you are not listening to what people are saying. They must be so comfortable that you don’t know you are wearing them.

‘You also have to wear them all the time as the brain needs to get used to hearing again.’

Every four to five month, I need to return to the clinic to check that everything is running smoothly. This can be done for up to five years until the guarantee expires.

The real miracle is, I can hear again and you can’t really put a price on that.