My Most Treasured Possession

I attended this year’s Figures of Speech event in London last week which raised money for the Institute of Contemporary Arts.  Speakers included Bob Geldof, Alan Carr and Janet Street-Porter, all talking about their most treasured possessions.  Spinvox‘s James Whatley, who hosted the Bloggers’ table, has asked that each of us do the same, so here’s mine.


My Most Treasured Possession


If you see me out at night, the chances are I’ll have 2 big blue things in my ears, my beloved protectors of unwelcome noise, my USA-imported saviours, the humble hearos ear-plug. Since my previous life as a 4-times-a week musical performer, I’ve always made sure to wear hearing protection when gigging – a lot of the time, the monitors in front of the stage pointing at the band would be as loud, if not louder, than the speakers pointing at the audience. Whilst it looks a little unconventional, wearing my most treasured possession is worth all the good-natured pointing and laughing I get for the moment I step outside.

I pull out my earplugs and my hearing is crystalline, compared to my companions, who are shouting incoherently at each other over the ringing in their own ears. I generally put my earplugs back in at this point until they have calmed down.




The most painful thought for me is that if I lose my ability to hear, I won’t be able to navigate my world anymore. I spent such a long time getting used to the many dissonances of daily life, vexed by the microtones in each new scenario until I was taught how to process those sounds as music. It turns out that if you use the appropriate scale, then your audio landscape can become a wonderful, if chaotic, symphony*.

I would be devastated if I could no longer use this method to interact with the world. I recognise people more easily by the sound of their voices than their physical appearance, which is another source of great amusement to those I see regularly.

If I lost my sense of hearing, I fear I will lose the friends I can’t recognise by sight alone. Even sitting on the tube, as I write this, I can hear someone’s headphones at an ear-splitting volume. I wonder momentarily why we seem so relaxed about protecting something that’s fundamentally irreplaceable, before replacing my earplugs, letting the sounds of the Jubilee line recede to a blissfully tolerable volume.

NB *Within reason, of course – I’m not counting the downstairs flat’s questionable and mystifying 125dB musical interludes at 1am on a Monday morning.

6 thoughts on “My Most Treasured Possession

  1. I’m not sure where I acquired them, but I have a set of ear plugs in my briefcase. Unfortunately, I never seem to have them on hand when I need them.

    The last time that I can remember music really hurting was when Healey’s was on Bathurst Street in Toronto, and Steve Lukather as playing. That club was in a basement, and with the audience packed in, there was no way to escape the volume once the performance started.

    I’ve discovered a Youtube video of Steve Lukather with Jeff Healey (and you’ll have to imagine that I saw something similar without Edgar Winter. I’m sure that I lost some hearing that night.

  2. I keep multiple pairs of 34db rated earplugs around for all sorts of things: in my purse zipper, next to the bed, in the car, etc. I wear them frequently, whether it is to sleep, at gigs, while driving when the noise is loud (last week), while trying to work in a loud area, etc.

    I ❤ ear plugs.

  3. Hey LJ

    Sadly I’m one of those who can’t wear earplugs as they never stay in. Earphones are a pain for me also as they keep on coming out at times when I’d prefer they didn’t. But I use them a lot, yet I can hear sounds closer to me okay than further away and voices can be a problem sometimes. I’m always using earphones – yet have got headphones which I use for computer which are better. Can’t wear these for watching TV though as feel daft with the microphone sitting there unused. Fine for PC though, as I can listen in 5.1 without a problem.

    A great blog, thank you for sharing.

    All the best from Rik.

    PS know what you mean about loud music from other flats, been there and done that before so often. Others are just SO intollerable, hope they don’t play it too often for you!

  4. HI LJ

    I still have a bag of industrial ear plugs for when I worked for a short while in a Tinplate printing factory that did specialty tins the likes of Whiskey, Biscuit, Trivial Persuit etc

    Superb they are as you squeeze them in your finger wedge them in the ear and within seconds they expand and drown out all noise.

  5. I agree with the above post. Personally I cannot understand why you would not want to make an effort in this regard anyway. Only the other day, at work we had exactly the same conversation and came to a similar closing

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