Evelyn Waugh’s ear trumpet vs. £4,000 worth of electronic hearing aids

Alexander Chancellor tries Waugh’s notorious ear trumpet, and is impressed:

On Christmas Day, in the Somerset home of my daughter Eliza, and her husband, Alexander Waugh, Evelyn’s grandson, I was offered the novelist’s old ear trumpet to try. I am rather deaf, as he was, and I was interested to see how it worked. It is a charming object, made of tortoiseshell, very light, and compressible so as to fit in a pocket, which was once given to him by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire. And I am embarrassed to say that I think I heard rather better through Waugh’s ear trumpet than I do through my two state-of-the-art Swiss-made electronic hearing aids that cost me around £2,000 each a few years ago.

Update (Jan. 24): In a letter to The Spectator published the following week, a Mr. Tom Blackett of West Byfleet, Surrey, writes:

Alexander Chancellor writes of the efficiency of Evelyn Waugh’s tortoiseshell ear trumpet (Long life, 11 January). Waugh also had a brass model — clearly less efficient — which he once brandished at Ann Fleming, shouting: ‘What? What?’ This so enraged her that she took a pudding spoon and soundly rapped the horn, sending the great man’s head into a spin.”

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