It was good news and bad news as the nurse peered into my ears in preparation for my appointment with the dreaded ear irrigation apparatus.

“The good news is you’ve done a great job with the oil,” she said, “that right ear has cleared itself almost completely. We never irrigate if the eardrum can be seen, and I can see yours quite clearly.”

“Phew, thank goodness for that!” I said, glad that the thin film of almond oil coating everything within a 2m radius of the bedside table was going to be a thing of the past. Although I was relieved that the irrigation was off, I was slightly disappointed that the wax plug had simply melted away into my pillow instead of blowing dramatically out of my ear like a champagne cork. Moreover, I had been excited by the prospect of a miraculous increase in hearing ability after reading this paper which examines the gory correlation between the size of wax plug and increase in hearing ability after removal. Now I’d never know how big my plug had been unless I could subject the pillow to a detailed forensic analysis. Hmmm. Maybe I…

The nurse cut in before I could devise a suitable pillow vaporisation protocol.

“The bad news is that the left ear is now completely blocked.”

It struck me for a second that perhaps the original plug had not dissolved after all and had just migrated across the vacant space between my ears. Either way, I was going to have to make sure I could maintain a couple of clean canals to co-incide with my appointment at the hearing aid clinic in two weeks’ time. Given the capricious cerumenous activity of the previous week, this might prove more tricky than I had previously thought.

“We’ll just turn you round the other way and get that left ear cleared”, said the nurse enthusiastically, as I was ceremonially draped in paper towels and given a metal receptacle to hold under my ear. “Ready? Okay, here we go…”

The ear irrigation machine sprang into life and the patients in the GPs waiting room on the other side of the door were treated to a series of disgracefully loud shrieks interspersed with hysterical nervous laughter, as the pulsed water jet pummelled the offending wax plug into submission. When it was all over, I eagerly awaited some speech to test out my new hearing.

“All done. You’ll be relieved to get that out of your ear!” said the nurse, putting something in the bin. Strangely, nothing sounded any different, apart from a disturbing sloshing noise in the left ear when I bent forward to pick up my handbag. I thanked the nurse, who had been genuinely lovely, and made my way home through the park, sans hearing aid and with a slightly wet t shirt. I noted that my footsteps were still well and truly absent and, for a moment, felt slightly disappointed.

But only for a moment. I just stamped my feet a bit more heavily as I walked, and enjoyed the sound of the birds tweeting loudly in the sunshine instead.

My unofficial hearing thresholds captured on the very handy Equal Loudness Contours site one week before, and immediately after wax removal. Left ear was irrigated. Right ear was confited in almond oil. 

5 Responses to “Unplugged”

  1. 1 Rose February 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    The oil thing is a nightmare, isn’t it? I think it covers pretty much everything apart from Daughter’s ear! Sounds like I’m going to have to play another game of ping pong between audiology and the GP, though. Audiology says don’t you dare turn up without having had your ears looked in and thoroughly flooded beforehand. The GP surgery says they won’t deal with wax if there is even the slightest gap around the outside of it, even though audiology just asked you to get unplugged so they can fill your ears with goop. You know the one, where you are asked to remove your hearing aids, they bung both ears solid with a quick-set compound then ask you questions. Smart move, people, smart move!

    • 2 moiradancer February 21, 2012 at 8:41 pm

      I never knew that getting oil into one’s lughole and keeping it there for the requisite 5 minutes could be so difficult, my oil stained t shirt collection is a testament to that! Hope I won’t be joining you in audiological ping pong, but I have a horrible feeling I might be…

      • 3 Rose February 24, 2012 at 9:36 am

        >”I never knew that getting oil into one’s lughole and keeping it there for the requisite 5 minutes could be so difficult”

        Try it with a small child! Faboulous opportunity to have your entire house redecorated in Shades of Almond in a Ring and Blob Formation.

  2. 4 Rose February 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    It gets better. Told audiology that the GP would not do the wax removal and they gave me an appointment for wax removal!! Right there in their own clinic, where I had been standing on the day they’d said see if you can get your GP to remove the wax. The mind boggles! At least she will be dewaxed and we will be able to get another appointment with the empty ears and if the test shows a moderate loss again then we can make progress. If it shows another fluctuation I don’t know whether to shoot them or shoot myself.

    • 5 moiradancer February 23, 2012 at 7:46 pm

      Help ma Boab, what is the point of that! How frustrating, not to mention the stress of dragging the poor wee sowl from pillar to post when she could have had the job done and dusted by those with specialist wax zapping skills. It’s enough to make you want to go on Dragons’ Den with an idea for a mobile earwax clearing franchise which trawls hearing aid clinic waiting rooms offering ‘Wax While You Wait’ treatments to those whose employers would rather they didn’t take several days off every time they have a hearing aid appointment.

      Hope all goes well and you get to the bottom of the hearing loss…

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